IBRG Election Report: The Power of Democracy and a Nation of Change

ibrgIndiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG), the non-partisan political action program of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, scored a very successful general election; 57 of 59 IBRG-endorsed candidates facing opposition were victorious, including Republicans and Democrats. Twenty additional endorsed candidates did not face general election challenges.

Eleven new legislators won with IBRG endorsements. IBRG was significantly engaged in support of five top-target candidates in open seat races, as well as successfully defending six pro-economy incumbents seriously challenged with defeat.

In a stunning Indiana election, Republicans swept all statewide races by significant margins, led by a 20 percentage point victory by Donald Trump. Not only wasn’t the scale of these win margins predicted in polling, but once again the final outcome defied expectations just months – even weeks – ago of a coming “market correction” in the GOP’s state legislative super-majority seat counts.

In the General Assembly, Republicans seriously exceeded expectations again in a volatile election environment. In the House, Democrats were able to pick-off just one first-term incumbent Republican legislator in Lake County (after an unprecedented multi-race battle in northwest Indiana for weeks), with the result being a 70-30 GOP majority next year.

In the Senate, Republicans actually managed to expand their majority by another seat to a 41-9 majority. They did so by defending two very competitive open seat races in Indianapolis and by picking up an open seat in LaPorte, largely by default from Democrats.

Twelve new members were elected to the House and nine new members to the Senate. One additional Senate seat will become vacant with a resignation and be filled by a local caucus later this year. This turnover in new seats rivals the huge numbers out of the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.

It seems that every national election in recent times has been labeled “historic” (among many other adjectives) before and after the votes are cast. Without question, the 2016 elections fit that label, but it’s really more than that. A fundamental realignment of the American electorate is well underway, driven by major upheavals and demographic shifts in this nation.

Read the full report. The report includes election results, statistics, and information on key races and new legislators. It will be updated periodically as final tallies and additional analyses are added.

Purdue’s 4-H Outreach Expanding to City Youth

RI may be a graduate of Indiana University, but the IU/Purdue rivalry stops at the edge of the basketball court for me. That’s likely for two reasons: (1) I have at least a modicum of perspective, and (2) I’ve written about Purdue in BizVoice enough times to be flat-out impressed by the school’s innovative educational efforts and its dedication to giving students a well-rounded experience.

Additionally, the fact that Purdue has an extension presence in all 92 of our counties is quite remarkable to me. While I’ve written about Purdue’s work to reach rural students in the past, I was somewhat surprised to see how it’s helping 4-H make an impact among Indiana’s urban populations.

Because urban areas tend to not have a strong tradition of 4-H, Purdue Extension is creating new programs in heavily urban Lake, Marion and Allen counties to attract more young people there.

They’re not your typical 4-H clubs.

“These clubs meet after school and are heavily focused on engaging young people in science and helping them understand where food comes from as well as career opportunities in agriculture,” said Renee McKee, program leader of 4-H and youth development at Purdue University.

A nationwide expansion of 4-H into urban communities was made possible through a National 4-H Council funding opportunity that originated from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.  In Indiana, the program is funding three start-up 4-H clubs in each of the three counties.

The effort is a strategic initiative of Indiana 4-H, McKee said. Key to making it work is getting community leaders and volunteers involved to help keep the 4-H clubs going once the grant funding is no longer available.

“The idea of creating urban 4-H clubs is to make them part of the fabric of the community, just as 4-H has done in many rural communities across Indiana,” she said.

Lake County in 2011 was the first of three urban counties in Indiana targeted for 4-H clubs funded this way. Funds initially were used to hire three program assistants who helped with establishing the clubs, planned activities and led meetings. They also work to connect parents and others from the community to volunteer with the club so that the community eventually takes responsibility for leading the programs. Urban clubs in places such as East Chicago and Gary now join the “traditional” clubs, such as those in Crown Point and Lowell where 4-H has been active for years.

“The main difference between when we started and now is that volunteers are taking a larger leadership role, and we have more investment from the local community,” said Julie Jones, 4-H youth development Extension educator in Lake County.

Now that the clubs are established in Lake County with about 100 members, including students of elementary and middle school age, older youth such as high school students are being encouraged to join the county’s 4-H Junior Leaders program and participate in the 4-H Round Up, a three-day workshop for middle school students to explore careers at Purdue in the summer.

Allen County began participating with this effort in 2012.

This year, three new urban clubs are starting in Marion County, all of which have a technology focus called Tech Wizards, an after-school, small-group mentoring program developed at Oregon State University. Tech Wizards work on technology-driven projects such as robotics and videos.

The Marion County clubs are being organized in less traditional places in Indianapolis such as the Felege Hiywot Center, which teaches gardening and environmental preservation to urban youth. 4-H also is working with the Immigrant Welcome Center, a resource for the growing number of immigrants in Indianapolis.

“Many of our opportunities to reach young people are in after-school settings, and there so many issues that impact after-school 4-H,” said Jim Becker, 4-H youth development Extension educator in Marion County. “These issues include transportation, single-parent families, the poverty rate and competition from other youth organizations.”

McKee said the urban initiative shows that 4-H can reach a diverse population statewide.

“Because of this Indiana strategic initiative, we have the ability to serve young people in Indiana regardless of where they live,” McKee said.

Indiana Primary 2014: Intra-Party Turmoil and Bassler’s Big Win Over Longtime State Senator

Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG), the non-partisan political action program of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, fought through one of the most challenging primary election cycles in its history with 12 of 14 IBRG-endorsed candidates winning their respective primary elections (including Eric Bassler’s big victory over 20-year incumbent State Sen. John Waterman).

Today, Hoosier voters believe their state government is on the “right track” by margins probably not seen in a generation of polling in the state, while holding nearly mirror opposite views of the federal government. Hoosiers have confidence in where our growing economy is headed and strongly support a variety of reforms that are helping Indiana lead the nation in economic growth.

However, large blocks of Hoosiers also detest the federal government, distrust both political parties, and want someone or something to lash out at. With Republicans in charge of both houses of the General Assembly by strong quorum-proof majorities, if you’re looking for some political payback in Indiana, the Republicans are the ones calling the shots.

In the 2014 primary elections, no Democrat incumbent legislator faced a primary election challenger. There were only two Democratic primaries in the state for “open” (i.e. no incumbent running) legislative seats, both in Lake County. The 2014 primary elections were about the Republicans. It’s important to note that the 2012 primary elections were the first held after redistricting. Twenty-two districts in 2012 did not have an incumbent running, compared to only eight this primary election. If you look at the House, the difference is even more stark –  20 open seats in 2012 and only three in 2014. So, the 2014 primaries had a lot more to do with incumbents.

In 2012, the labor unions were still hopping-mad over right-to-work and running a number of candidates against GOP incumbents and open seat races. They all failed. While the ISTA teachers union and “Lunch Pail Republicans” were back this year, a new and formidable primary challenge came from social and religious conservative candidates and interest groups, working in concert with some Tea Party networks. Their targets — select Republican primary elections.

Highly-motivated by hot-button social and religious issues such as the gay marriage amendment HJR-3, several otherwise conservative Republican legislators found themselves facing tough challenges from the right. In low-turnout elections, highly-energized subgroups of voters – those angry and motivated to vote against someone – can and do turnout to vote and win races.

It’s impossible to have much of a discussion of 2014 Indiana state politics without considering the impact of the hyper-divisive fight over the gay marriage amendment HJR-3. Setting aside the policy debate, clearly it has motivated, energized and radicalized large segments of the population on both sides of the issue. For many, it is a hyper-issue that overrules all others.

In this year’s primary elections, three Republican state representatives who voted against the gay marriage amendment found themselves challenged by significantly more socially conservative primary election challengers. Two of these three were defeated on May 6 and the third won with less than 50% as his two primary election challengers split 50.5% of the protest vote.

However, where issues other than religious and social ones took front and center, the results were very different. Where issues such as jobs, tax cuts, economic growth, right-to-work, education reform, free enterprise, regulatory relief and other economic and reform issues were the focus, incumbents (and non-incumbents) performed very well. In fact, they all won when IBRG was involved!

IBRG success included the highly‐targeted race that defeated a 20‐year Senate Republican incumbent (John Waterman in Senate District 39) strongly backed by the ISTA teachers union, other labor unions and trial lawyers. It included defending key legislators with strong pro‐jobs, pro‐economy records. This report will be updated as additional election results become available and published at
www.ibrg.biz.

IBRG Endorsed Candidates

Incumbents
House 22 Rebecca Kubacki – Loss
House 25 Don Lehe – Win
House 32 P. Eric Turner – Win
House 39 Jerry Torr – Win
House 59 Milo Smith – Win
House 83 Kathy Heuer – Loss
House 84 Bob Morris – Win
House 85 Casey Cox – Win
House 91 Robert Behning – Win
Senate 31 James Merritt, Jr. – Win

Challengers and Others
Senate 39 Eric Bassler – Win
Senate 47 Erin Houchin – Win

Open Seats
House 63 Mike Braun – Win
Senate 43 Chip Perfect – Win

Feds Raid Township Trustee Office

The reason the Indiana Chamber continues to push for local government reform is the opportunity to provide more effective services with more efficient use of taxpayer money.

The fact that some township trustees continue to draw the scrutiny and action of authorities only adds to the logic of modernizing Indiana’s local government system. A portion of the latest from Lake County (the Northwest Indiana Times has the full story):

FBI and IRS agents raided the Calumet Township Trustee’s office and removed boxes full of documents and at least one computer shortly after noon Thursday as part of a federal investigation of the office.

Bob Ramsey, the supervisory agent for the FBI office in Merrillville, said his office, the Internal Revenue Service in Merrillville and state police are taking part in a joint operation.

Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin, who operates one of the largest township government units in the state, couldn’t be reached for comment. She has been under official scrutiny for her office’s spending on assistance to Gary’s low income residents and the use of take-home cars.

The state has been threatening to take over the finances of her office if she doesn’t reduce administrative costs. Elgin is suing Gov. Mike Pence to stop enforcement of a 2013 law that would significantly reduce her control over more than $5 million in annual spending.

The law requires Elgin to reduce the property tax rate supporting her township assistance program to less than 12 times the average of the state’s 1,008 townships. Calumet Township’s tax rate has been as much as 22.6 times the state average. Elgin said her tax rate is much lower when the impact of state-mandated property tax cuts are calculated.

A Times investigation found her office spent almost as much on employees’ salaries and benefits and business vendors, as it did on direct assistance for  emergency shelter, utilities, health care and food. Elgin puts her administrative costs at 37 percent of her budget.

 

 

 

Hammond Statue an Homage to Iconic Movie Scene

If you're like me, you're already sick of hearing about Christmas. However, you can't help but smile at the news of the new statue in Hammond — commissioned by the South Shore CVA — that immortalizes a classic scene from "A Christmas Story." WTHR's web site reports on the display — part of an exhibit that will open on Nov. 9:

HAMMOND – The annual "A Christmas Story" Comes Home exhibit begins next weekend, but the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority unveiled a new bronze statue Tuesday. Flick, a character from the Christmas movie set in northern Indiana, now has his tongue permanently stuck to a flag pole in front of the Indiana Welcome Center.

Scott Schwartz, the actor who played Flick in the movie, helped unveil the statue Tuesday. Flick took the "Triple Dog Dare" in the movie scene by sticking his tongue to a frozen flag pole in the school yard.               

The Flick statue was commissioned by the South Shore CVA in January 2013 and created by the same studio that created the Orville Redenbacher statue in Valparaiso, as well as statues of Michael Jordan, Frank Thomas and Harry Carey in Chicago.

The exhibit will open Saturday, November 9 and run through Sunday, January 5. The Indiana Welcome Center is open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is located at 7770 Corinne Drive in Hammond.

VIDEO: A Discussion About Northwest Indiana

NWIndianaLife.com recently spoke to our president, Kevin Brinegar, about the key issues facing the northwest Indiana business community. We appreciate the opportunity, and here is their synopsis of the 21-minute interview.

In this interview, Kevin Brinegar of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce discusses the Chamber's relationship with Northwest Indiana. He talks about how important the Region is to Indiana as a whole, given the proximity to Chicago and the variety of infrastructure in place for transportation and industry. He goes on to discuss some of the recent developments coming out of the Region, including the Illiana Expressway and how it will improve traffic flow in and out of the area, as well as the expansion of the Gary Airport, lakefront developments, and how the RDA is helping with improvements on a regional level. Next, he covers some of the positive opportunities coming out of Gary in the future, and how the revitalization efforts are helping the future of this strategically located city. Kevin then talks about the business climate in Indianapolis, and how visionary leaders across industries have helped foster a thriving area of economic growth. He attributes this growth to Indiana having one of the best, most stable climates for business growth, and how well the state has been ranked overall. He sees Indiana's economic future in the hands of the Chamber of Commerce, helping to grow the economy over long periods and directing long-term planning for the years ahead. He goes on to discuss how the Indiana Chamber of Commerce distributes information to the people of Indiana, through emails, newsletters, magazines, blogs, twitter, and more. Some plans the Chamber of Commerce have been implementing include the Indiana Vision 2025 plan and covering the cost of preschool for families to help prepare the next generation. He sees the Porter County Career and Tech Center as a model for engagement with employers as student are learning trades in school.

And the Voter Turnout Is …

One of the primary (that’s primary as in most signficant, not the May election) questions each Election Day is: What was the voter turnout?

As we await some of those numbers for today (we do know that approximately 92,000 people voted early or by mail, compared to 61,000 doing the same in 2006), a little history and reflection on the historic jump in participation we saw two years ago when the Obama-Clinton primary fight generated national attention.

In 2006 (a better comparison to this year as the most recent mid-term election), nearly 850,000 Hoosiers cast ballots. That’s 19,000 of registered voters. The top county vote percentages were in Benton (42%) and Martin (41%). In 24 counties, the vote percentages were in the teens.

Two years later, the votes in Indiana doubled to 1.7 million. There were 185,000 absentee ballots that year. Five counties (Greene, Lake, Martin, Henry and Vermillion) had at least half their eligible voters go to the polls and the lowest turnout number was 33% in several counties. (In November 2008, the vote percentage surged to an amazing 62%.)

What about the previous primary elections since the turn of the century? Amazing consistency. 2004, 21% turnout; 2002, 22%; and 2000, 19.5%.

Prediction for this time around: We’ll beat the 20% range of most years, not reach the 40% of 2008 but close more than half of that gap. In other words, lower 30s for a percentage. Too optimistic or a sign that voters are not happy and want to have their say?

Spangle: Libertarian Party Anticipates Growth, Doubling Filed Candidates

Chris Spangle is executive director of the Libertarian Party of Indiana.

Since the closing of the polls on November 4, 2008 there has been a rush to find out exactly what a Libertarian is and why a third party may be the only viable option left for responsible government. The word is said more often now than two years ago. The failures of both Republicans and Democrats to keep their promises in the last 30 years have led to a growth of the Libertarian Party base in Indiana by Hoosiers unwilling to reform broken parties that refuse to mend. (Don’t be fooled into thinking we are all "R’s" in "L" clothing. Half of our current statewide leadership are former Democrats. It’s my vote anyways.)

We took to aggressively build our grassroots organizations. In the last year and a half, over 30 county parties began or renewed their efforts to regularly organize their county parties by outreach events and candidacies in 2010. We’ll add four more this month. We also revamped our web site at www.lpin.org and online properties to spread our message to a younger, and more receptive, audience. In fundraising, we’re close to doubling our efforts from one year ago.

Most importantly, it’s difficult to ask people to vote Libertarian if you don’t run candidates. In 2008, the party ran less than 30 federal and state level candidates combined. We anticipate that number to more than double and possibly triple. We’ll have quality candidates in all 10 federal races. For the first time ever, we had a contested federal Senate race at our version of the primary — a nominating convention. We will have anywhere from 25 to 50 candidates in the state legislative races. We nominated over 20 state legislative candidates this past weekend, and have more ballot vacancies to appoint. A complete slate of candidates is close to completion in Marion and Lake County alone.

The most important race for 2010 is the Secretary of State race. Our candidate is Greenfield resident Mike Wherry. We’ve achieved two percent in every Secretary of State’s race since 1994 to achieve consistent, automatic ballot access. We’ll need to hit that number again in 2010 to maintain automatic ballot access for the next four years. We believe now more than ever, Hoosiers need that third option. In many state legislative races, we are the second option. (At this moment, almost 38 state legislative races have one candidate.) Ballot access is crucial to the survival of our message. By achieving 10 percent we will have attained major party status, and would hold primaries (we currently have nominating conventions) and “register” Libertarian voters in Indiana. That data would greatly increase our ability to spread the libertarian message.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Out of respect for our guest bloggers, we will not be allowing anonymous comments on their blogs this week. Additionally, the Indiana Chamber does not necessarily share the opinions of our guest bloggers.

Dalton: HD19 GOP Primary has Intrigue for Northwest Indiana Voters

Steve Dalton’s popular blog Northwest Indiana Politics is read by many politicos statewide.

House District 19: The Republican primary pits former Mayor of Crown Point Dan Klein against Fran Katz, chief operating officer of the American Society of Agronomy.  

Republicans believe this seat to be particularly vulnerable to a pick-up in that first-term incumbent Shelli VanDenburgh is a Democrat in a marginally Republican district — by a small margin. In a year where one House race may determine control of redistricting, and some of those races may be determined yet again by just hundreds of votes — or less, this race has been targeted by HRCC as a key priority. During 2009, there was quite a bit of effort expended to recruit former military hero Luke Abbott to run for this office, and initially he did announce intentions to run. Early in 2010, word leaked out that his work schedule would preclude him from running and HRCC began to search to find another suitable candidate. 

Here’s where there is a bit of controversy: Instead of working closely with the new GOP chair from Lake County, Kim Krull, HRCC jumped quickly to put out former Mayor Klein’s name and freeze everyone else out. Fran Katz then, with the support of chairman Krull, filed to run as well. Chairman Krull says she will work with the winner to replace Vandenburgh, but that she was not in the loop and didn’t know that Klein was being recruited. There have been words of frustration from both camps over the apparent faux pas, but at this point there’s a primary and everyone’s working to win.

Former Mayor Klein is handicapped by his dramatic loss in the Republican primary in 2007 to the director of the Crown Point Chamber of Commerce (the Republican went on to lose the mayor’s office to Democrats in that year). There have also been persistent issues surrounding an investigation into a loan made to Plasmatronics, an economic development opportunity, while he was mayor. The discussion boards and blog comments have been littered with accusations that to date have not been anything more than that. But all handicaps and gossip mills aside, Klein has name recognition as a former mayor and current director of Habitat for Humanity. He also has the support of potential Speaker Bosma and the finance commitments that may be necessary to knock off an incumbent Democrat. Rumors that this run is merely a stepping stone to another run for mayor are probably whisper campaigns to stir up resentment only. 

Katz appears to bring a wealth of experience in sciences and research, and a lifetime of working to combat arbitrary ceilings and barriers. She does not have the name recognition that Klein holds, but she has the tacit support of the Lake County GOP organization and those in Crown Point who remember Mayor Klein less than fondly.   

I would predict a Klein win, though a smaller margin than expected by any of the internal polling, based on name recognition voting. A big turnout favors Klein; a weak turnout in heavy rain probably gives Katz a chance.  

U.S. House District One: I can keep this short and sweet. Rob Pastore has run the most aggressive campaign, and has captured the most attention among Republican candidates. I would expect him to win the primary. I would also expect that, barring major corruption charges, Pete Visclosky will win re-election. This is the safest seat in Indiana for Democrats.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Out of respect for our guest bloggers, we will not be allowing anonymous comments on their blogs this week. Additionally, the Indiana Chamber does not necessarily share the opinions of our guest bloggers.

Celebrating Township Style!

In the ongoing "we’ll do anything to save our jobs" crusade, the Ross Township trustee in Lake County testified at length Wednesday before the Senate Local Government Committee. He was opposing the insertion of real reform language (no township boards and county councils having binding budget authority) into the township-by-township referendum proposal passed by the House.

The trustee, who also serves as the head of the United Township Association, explained that the township is important. He said his office receives donations for 170 children to enjoy Christmas. Based on his 2008 annual financial report, people young and old also must get the opportunity to enjoy the Fourth of July. Among the expenses listed: $24,000 to Mad Bomber Fireworks Prod., Inc.

That’s your taxpayer money — at least those in Lake County. Can we really let it go up in smoke like that?