Confessions of a Hoosier Democrat

Blogging Indiana Politics and the 2008 Presidential Race.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Candidate forum with David Orentlicher, Russell Brown and John Barnes

On Friday, October 20, I was invited to a candidates forum put on by Bil Browning of Bil invited:

Russell Brown (State Senate Candidate – District 31)
Rep David Orentlicher (State Representative – 86th District)
Susan Fuldauer (State House candidate – 88th District)
John Barnes (State House candidate – 89th District)
Mike Kole (Libertarian Candidate - Secretary of State).

Unfortunately Susan and Mike had to cancel at the last minute, but hopefully we’ll get something from them soon.

Bloggers other than myself who attended were:

Bil Browning and Don Sherwood -
Jennifer Wagner - Taking Down Words
Gary Welsh - Advance Indiana
Steph Mineart - A Commonplace Book
Kelly Jordan - Resisting Inertia
Ben Berg - stAllio's Way
Anonymous - ManfredEye

Each blogger got to ask a question and the three candidates could answer however they wanted. No rules were set… just talking amongst friends…

Stem Cells

First question was from Jennifer Wager from Taking Down Words. She asked the three candidates about stem cell research and how that issue affects the campaigns. Orentlicher talked about how it was more than just an issue about research, but rather it reflected on the state as a whole. If we ban stem cell research it can give the impression that Indiana is not a state that is on the cutting edge of research, thus lowering it’s stock value for biotech companies looking to move here.

Brown added that we have some of the best research universities in the country and we need to create an environment which will ensure that the talent those universities produce stay in Indiana.

Working on the theme of creating a good environment, Barnes said that we need to promote tolerance and diversity to promote Indiana as a forward-thinking state for investors.

Orentlicher used Ft Collins, Colorado as a model for how a community invested in infrastructure, education, parks, etc. to make itself more attractive to companies looking to move here.


Ben Berg of StAllio’s Way asked the next question about transportation in general. Orentlicher was the first to respond talking about how we need more public transportation to unite areas.

Barnes talked about how Major Moves was not necessarily bad, but the way it was ramrodded through was not the way to do business. His opponent Larry Buell was part of the problem, not explaining or getting input on what he’s doing… just doing it.

Brown talked about how people are saying how great Major Moves was and he noted an example of a community that just received $100,000+ for road work. While it was great they got the money, in reality that small of an amount would barely pay for anything roadwise.

Orentlicher followed up Barnes’ point about Major Moves being ramrodded on us by pointing out that it sets a dangerous precedent for the gov’t to privatize anything it wants without public input.

Postive vs Negative Campaigning

Kelly from Resisting Inertia asked about positive vs negative campaigning, especially in light of the battle between Orenticher and his opponent. Orentliched acknowledged that it is frustrating because it takes away from the conversation about the topics, the campaigning itself becomes the topic. What the negative ads are about are important issues.

Brown talked about how it was hard to get the attention of the media. The only thing that really gets any press is when you do something controversial.

Barnes said that it’s difficult to attack his opponent because no one knows what his views are… add on top of that the fact that there’s no press coverage… makes this rather difficult.

Privatization of Government

The blogger from Manfred’s Eye asked about privatizing state government. Brown, a former O’Bannon staffer, said that people get into state government not for the money but rather to pay the bills and do good, no one gets rich being a state employee. Being efficient is good, but it should be the default.

Orentlicher said that privatization can be good, but it has to make sense to do so.

Barnes commented that it can be dangerous to take a corporate view, that looking at it that way doesn’t serve the people, but rather the bottom line. Government is not a business and should not be run that way.

Conflicts of interest

I asked the next question about how to keep conflicts of interest out of government. All too often you hear of a legislator blocking one bill or promoting another bill that affects his/her livelihood. Honestly I asked the question but forgot to take notes on it because I was listening to the answer. All three candidates talked about how important it was to minimize the conflict of interest, but sometimes it’s hard to totally remove yourself, especially considering that everyone is only a part-time legistlator.

Orentlicher mentioned that since he was a lawyer, doctor and professor at IU, if he recused himself from every vote that he might benefit on, he’d have to not vote on anything involving lawyers, medicine or universities…

Legistlative Agenda

Steph Mineart from Commonplacebook asked each candidate what part of his legistlative agenda would be...

1> Full day kindergarten
2> Keeping college grads in Indiana - Stop the brain drain
3> Affordable Health Insurance

1> Full day kindergarten and preschool
2> Property tax reform
3> Insurance reform

1> Health care for the poor
2> Education funding
3> Property tax reform

Gay Marriage Ban Constitutional Amendment

One of the GOP's main issues next legistlative session is promised to be trying to amend the Indiana Constitution to ban gay marriage. Don from Bilerico asked each candidate where they stood on it.

Orentlicher said he was strongly against the proposal, that we shouldn't write discrimination into the constitution.

Brown said the proposal discriminatory and unnecessary, Indiana law already bans gay marriage. Additionally the language of the proposed amendment is vague at best and for that reason alone it should be rejected. Even the author of the amendment couldn't say exactly what it meant.

Barnes agreed that it was redundant. Additionally he pointed that once it's passed it's pretty much set in stone, no amendment to the Indiana constitution has ever been repealed. Additionally it makes our state look backward.

Extending sexual orientation to Civil Rights

Bil from Bilerico asked each candidate if he'd support adding sexual orientation to discrimination laws, protecting gays from being discriminated against like how they added Vietnam veteran status.

Barnes said yes he would support. It's something that people don't like to talk about it, but we need to talk about it.

Orentlicher said that he would support it, but that we needed to be very careful when trying to pass legistlation like that. We need to be careful that state laws don't override local ordinances that may be more protective.

Brown's answer was simple: Yes.

Voter ID

Gary from Advance Indiana asked about the new voter ID law. The new law requires you to show a gov't issued picture ID to vote.

Brown commented that the law was the most restrictive voter ID law in the country. requiring a picture ID is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's too restrictive. Many other election reforms are needed, such as satellite voting, moving poll closing to a later hour and allowing voter registration closer to election day.

Orentlicher said that the bill was not designed to protect the integrity of voting. There are plenty of other places that has much much more fraud that they are unwilling to touch, like absentee balloting.

Barnes said that it if wasn't broken, why are they trying to fix it? There's been no evidence of voter fraud by people trying to impersonate someone to vote. If they were really concerned about cutting down on fraud they'd have focused on absentee ballots.

Orentlicher added that there may have been very isolated cases of it, but it's never been reported. If there was systemic fraud, it would have been evident in the voting trends.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

It’s Financial Reports Time!!!

Time to see who’s making the money, who’s spending it and who’s got some left for the homestretch… Thanks to for making the data so accessible. (BTW… COH stands for Cash-on-hand).

IN-1 – Rep Visclosky is cruising to another easy win. Think of the IN-1 as being a mirror of the IN-5.

Pete Visclosky – Democrat Incumbent
Raised - $1,293,572
Spent - $884,015
COH - $1,008,575

Mark Leyva – Republican Challenger
Raised - $9,870
Spent - $9,708
COH - $657

IN-2 – This one is a LOT closer than the money story is showing. A lot of outside forces are coming to bear on this. has paid for a lot of ads and the Democratic and Republican national committees have also pumped a lot of money into it. Rumours abound that if Chocola doesn’t dip into his personal fortune to help, National Republicans aren’t going to be pumping cash in for much longer.

Joe Donnelly – Democrat Challenger
Raised - $1,145,316
Spent - $816,699
COH - $333,449

Chris Chocola – Republican Incumbent
Raised - $2,733,972
Spent - $1,929,247
COH - $1,001,908

IN-3 – This race is starting to turn some heads. Dr. Hayhurst has tapped his own finances to give an unexpected influx of cash down the stretch. Some have said this caught the Souder camp off-guard and they’re scrambling. I’m not sure Dr. Hayhurst can make up all the ground in time for election day, but keep your eye on this race come Nov. 7. If it’s a landslide for the Democrats, Rep. Souder may get steamrolled right along with Hostettler, Chocola and Sodrel.

Tom Hayhurst – Democrat Challenger
Raised - $592,492
Spent - $500,929
COH - $91,562

Mark Souder – Republican Incumbent
Raised - $299,141
Spent - $210,863
COH - $111,364

IN-4 – Another one of Indiana’s secure Republican districts. David Sanders’ financials aren't in, but I believe if you don’t expect to raise more than $50,000 you don’t need to file.

David Sanders – Democrat Challenger (6/30/06)
Raised - $10,109
Spent - $1,559
COH - $14,722

Steve Buyer – Republican Incumbent
Raised - $628,049
Spent - $406,225
COH - $416,949

IN-5 – See my comments for IN-4.

Katherine Carr – Democrat Challenger (no filing date listed)
Raised - $6,898
Spent - $4,567
COH - $2,414

Dan Burton – Republican Incumbent
Raised - $434,151
Spent - $571,112
COH - $840,485

IN-6 – See my comments for IN-4. Barry Welsh has run a spirited campaign on a shoestring budget. Kudos to him for making the most out of what he has. Pence’s large numbers may not be reflective of his Congressional campaign. There’s some conservative activists who’ve quietly been mentioning his name for 2008.

Barry Welsh – Democrat Challenger
Raised - $50,178
Spent - $48,061
COH - $1,777

Mike Pence – Republican Incumbent
Raised - $1,348,402
Spent - $1,064,134
COH - $480,347

IN-7 – Eric Dickerson (no, not the NFL Hall of Fame runningback, although you confuse the two I’m sure he wouldn’t mind) said at the start that he needed to raise $200,000 to run a competitive race. Gee, go figure, now he’s saying they never really needed that much. Could it be because you only raise ¼ of that? In what promised to be a good campaign has turned into something of a trainwreck. Dickerson’s campaign turned down cash and resources from the Indiana Republican Party and claims to have spent $2 million dollars on his campaign… since 1999. Considering that a lot of the population still thinks he ran for 2000+ yards in a season, I don’t think it’s money well spent.

Julia Carson – Democrat Incumbent
Raised - $321,426
Spent - $299,355
COH - $324,097

Eric Dickerson – Republican Challenger
Raised - $47,684
Spent - $27,061
COH - $21,824

IN-8 – The “Bloody Eighth” – Notorious for not raising campaign funds, John Hostettler is doing nothing to dispel that. Underachieving yet again has cause the National Committee to pour loads of cash into the district to assist. Add on top of that the excellent job that Brad Ellsworth has done in fundraising and you’ve got a seat ripe for takeover. It’s a question of when, not if, the National Republicans turn off the money spigot… Rumours (feverishly denied) abound in this race that Hostettler has all but given up. National Republicans have dumped more cash into the district in the past few days, but with more competitive seats out there you gotta wonder how long they’ll continue to pour water down the drain.

Brad Ellsworth – Democrat Challenger
Raised - $1,466,903
Spent - $1,053,440
COH - $413,463

John Hostettler – Republican Incumbent
Raised - $449,594
Spent - $181,447
COH - $269,704

IN-9 – This race is nationally known for how intense it is. For the third straight election Baron Hill and Mike Sodrel have battled it out in this no-holds-barred bare-knuckle fight. Baron Hill used Sodrel’s connection to Mark Foley against him and Sodrel claimed Hill doesn’t hold “Hoosier Values” because he voted against a gay marriage ban and flag desecration ban. This is going to go down to the wire yet again. This is the third of the Indiana Three that’s attracting a lot of national attention and money.

Baron Hill – Democratic Challenger
Raised - $1,536,268
Spent - $618,676
COH - $927,401

Mike Sodrel – Republican Incumbent
Raised - $2,181,232
Spent - $1,132,816
COH - $1,072,484

Indiana Senate – Richard Lugar’s so loved in Indiana that the Democrats didn’t even bother to put someone up against him. Yet still Lugar’s advertising on TV about how great a Senator he is… Ummm… Senator, we know… we’re convinced… you’re preaching to the choir. Steve Osborn is the token opponent for the Libertarians… and he didn’t file a financial statement.

Richard Lugar – Republican Incumbent
Raised - $5,370,017
Spent - $2,886,577
COH - $2,892,395

Evan Bayh – Senator Bayh’s data is a little different because he’s not running this year. But here’s his info…

Senate Campaign Fund
2001-2006 Total Receipts: $12,142,264
2001-2006 Total Spent: $3,815,800
Cash on Hand: $10,578,491

All America PAC
Total Receipts: $3,074,109
Total Spent: $2,662,898
Cash on Hand: $794,555

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Human Rights Campaign Scorecard

Here's a shocker for you... Hoosier Democrats scored well on the Human Rights Campaign 2006 Scorecard and Hoosier Republican... well they didn't. I could be wrong, but it probably has something to do with trying to deny basic human rights to gays...

In the Senate, Senator Bayh scored an 89% while Senator Lugar scored a big fat ZERO...

In the House, Rep. Visclosky scored a 75% while Rep. Carson scored a 88%. Of the Hooser Republican Reps, only Hostettler managed to escape the goose-egg. He opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment (which scored triple) on the grounds that the Federal Gov't didn't belong in the debate. Hostettler scored a 38% while the rest of the Republican Congressmen (Chocola, Souder, Pence, Buyer, Burton and Sodrel) scored a big fat ZERO.

For those keeping score...

Hoosier Democrats average: 84%
Hoosier Republicans average: 4.8%

Sunday, October 15, 2006

IndyStar endorses Ellsworth and Donnelly

The prevailing wisdom is that The Indianapolis Star is a conservative newspaper. While that may have been tempered in the past few years after their acquisition by Gannett, they still tend to bend that way.

Which is what makes today endorsements so impressive. In today's Indianapolis Star the editorial board endorsed 7 incumbents (Viscolsky, Souder, Buyer, Burton, Carson, Sodrel and Pence) and endorse two challengers, IN-8 Brad Ellsworth and IN-2 Joe Donnelly.

Indiana 2nd District
Supporters of Rep. Chris Chocola are crying foul that he's taking blame for the leasing of the Indiana Toll Road to a private entity, an unpopular move in the Northern Indiana district.

But challenger Joe Donnelly is right to argue that a congressperson should at least have spoken up informally about the momentous deal involving an interstate highway, even if the federal government was not directly involved.

Making his second consecutive run at the Republican two-term incumbent, Democrat Donnelly could benefit enough from the Toll Road controversy and another state issue, daylight-saving time, to close the narrow margin by which he lost in 2004. Dissatisfaction with the national GOP and with the Iraq war also is behind one of the nation's closest congressional races.

At the same time, Donnelly, a well-spoken Mishawaka businessman and former State Election Board member, brings many positives of his own to the table, including sound, moderate positions on extrication from Iraq, immigration control and taxation. While Chocola in his brief tenure has established himself as an advocate for small business and fiscal sense, Donnelly is the better choice between two worthy candidates.
Indiana 8th District
The "Bloody Eighth" District in Southern Indiana is living up to the nickname it has earned in a succession of close and bitter elections over the years. Will the outspoken maverick Rep. John Hostettler survive to see a seventh term?

Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth is the strongest Democrat so far to take on Hostettler, and their race has drawn national attention, with the dollars to match. The incumbent hopes his base of social and fiscal conservatives will carry him through once again; but Ellsworth should have broader appeal, thanks not only to his more congenial persona but also to his stands on key issues.

Ellsworth astutely presents himself as an alternative to the incivility and partisanship that have afflicted Congress and colored some of Hostettler's rhetoric. Ellsworth would be more likely to embrace the compromise efforts on immigration that Hostettler rigidly opposes. And he vows to bring to Washington the budgetary discipline he has had to observe in local public office. He deserves the opportunity.
The other endorsements weren't much of a surprise...

IN-1 - The Star endorses Pete Visclosky
Preserving jobs in industrialized Northwest Indiana and promoting education for a high-tech future are natural priorities for a 1st District member of Congress, and Rep. Pete Visclosky has attended to that business through his 22 years in the seat. He deserves a 12th term.
IN-3 - In a backhanded endorsement, rather than endorsing Souder, The Star said Hayhurst hasn't shown enough why they should't vote for Souder.
Souder's Democratic challenger, pulmonologist Tom Hayhurst, has experience on the local level as a Fort Wayne City Council member and as an activist for veterans' issues. He's been unable to show, however, why voters should deny Souder a seventh term.
IN-4 - No surprise... Endorsement for Steve Buyer.
Sanders, a Purdue University professor, is an intelligent, passionate advocate for his positions on the political left. But it's Buyer's work on veterans issues, along with his fiscal conservatism, that wins The Star's endorsement.
IN-5 - Another backhanded endorsement for Burton... This one says there are so few Democrats in the district they can't field a competitive candidate.
The congressman, a member of the International Relations Committee, has done little to distinguish himself in the past two years. But without a well-qualified opponent to challenge Burton, voters should once again return him to Washington.
IN-6 - Strong endorsement to Pence...
The incumbent is opposed by Democrat Barry Welsh, a Methodist minister who is running to Pence's right on immigration. Welsh has run a respectable grassroots campaign but isn't a match for Pence's depth of knowledge or experience. The Star strongly endorses Mike Pence for a fourth term.
IN-7 - Another "we'd like to recommend the other guy but..." endorsement for Carson.
Dickerson, a Marine veteran, is in many ways a stronger candidate than the incumbent. He offers a reasoned, moderate approach on major issues, including the war in Iraq. He has a strong background in business and could bring fresh energy to the 7th District seat. But he stumbled badly in responding to the revelation that he had been arrested on domestic violence charges. It's a mistake the challenger, a political newcomer, couldn't afford. With deep reservations, The Star recommends Carson for one more term.
IN-9 - Relatively strong endorsement for Sodrel.
Sodrel, after only two years in office, has shown solid growth in the position. He's earned a second term.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Warner drops out before even starting...

Mark Warner announced today that he would not be seeking the Democratic nomination for President in 2008. Warner cited his family as the main reason for not running. "I know these moments are never going to come again. This weekend made clear what I'd been thinking about for many weeks that while politically this appears to be the right time for me to take the plunge at this point, I want to have a real life."

So... where does that leave everyone else, especially Senator Bayh? Two words... Sitting pretty.

Let's take a look at the other candidates...

I'm going to skip Edwards, but honestly I don't think this affects him much. He still has his base and message...

I still don't think Hillary will run... I think she's smart enough to realize what would happen if she did win the nomination.

I think Kerry will either not run or start and bow out early when he realizes that a lot of the people who supported him won't come back under his tent.

Vilsack I think will come to his senses and realize if he can't even get better than 3rd place in his own state he doens't have a chance anywhere else...

That leaves Clark, Richardson, Biden, Gephardt and Bayh (and I'm sure I'm forgetting someone else)... but of those only Bayh has the money to buy the name recognition needed to increase his numbers. And with Warner out, I'm sure the All America PAC staff is burning up the phone lines securing Warner's financial backers to dump more money into his coffers...

Regardless of whether or not you agree with 100% of his views, you HAVE to admit this is a HUGE bonus for Bayh.

But don't take my word for it... Let's see what other people are saying...

Political Derby:
Who benefits the most? That’s a no-brainer, and I have one word for you, Evan Bayh. Time to send Warner some chocolates, a few nice Mylar balloons and one of those giant thank you cards. The center of track has just become a heckuvalot less crowded.
The Fix:
The most obvious winner from the Warner news is Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh. Bayh and Warner shared much of the same ideological territory -- moderate, consensus builders elected in red states. After helping Gov. Tim Kaine (D) win the governorship in 2005, Warner became the "it" boy of national politics -- the candidate seen as most likely to emerge as the alternative to New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D).

Warner's ascent came at the expense of Bayh, who found much of the air sucked out of his candidacy. No longer. Party insiders say that there was a major behind-the-scenes fight for donors and activists between Bayh and Warner.

Not surprisingly, the first statement from a prospective 2008er on Warner's decision came from Bayh, who praised the former governor as "exceptional public servant, a great leader, and an influential voice in the Democratic Party." You can expect Bayh to be on the phone today to some of the money men who had sided with Warner in hopes of locking them up for his own bid.
Taking Warner's place in the third spot is the person who I believe may benefit most from Warner's departure - Indiana Senator Evan Bayh who rises from fifth. Russ Feingold stays in fourth, with everyone else moving up one place to fill the gap left above them.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

League of Conservation Voters Scorecard

The League of Conservation Voters has released their scorecard for the 2006 Midterm elections...

Our own Sen Bayh was one of 19 Senators so score a perfect 100%. Lugar scored a 14%.

Not surprising, 6 of the 7 GOP representatives from Indiana scored a big fat 0%. Sodrel was the only one that didn't score a 0... he got a whopping 8%. For the Dems, Julia Carson scored a perfect 100% and Pete Visclosky scored 92%.

So for those keeping score...

Indiana's Democratic Delegation - 97.3%
Indiana's Republican Delegation - 2.8%

Bayh campaigning in Indiana

Sen Bayh returned to Indiana during the Fall Recess to campaign for Indiana's Democrats. Focusing mainly on the Indiana Three (Joe Donnelly, Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill), Bayh attended events with all three.

On Oct 6th, Bayh attended an event with Sheriff Ellsworth at the Evansville Regional Airport to call for the implementation of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. "America doesn't expect perfection, but it does expect us to do the best job we can," Ellsworth said. "We're not doing nearly enough, and that's got to change," Bayh said. "... We have to do better than that - and, with Brad Ellsworth's help, that's what we're going to do."

Up in Mishawaka, Bayh paid a visit to his old friend Joe Donnelly. Evan and Joe stopped by the United Steelworkers hall to talk about legistlation to keep US jobs in the US. Later they visited the AM General Humvee plant. Bayh recently announced that $2.2billion had been approved to pay for armored Humvees.

In addition to campaigning for the Indiana Three, Bayh announced that All America PAC was donating $100,000 to the Indiana Democratic Party to help out all Democrats in Indiana.

All of this is coming on the heels of some great months for the Indiana Three. All three races have jumped into the top tier of races most likely to turn over. In Chris Cillizza's most recent House Line he had them placed at 13th(IN-9), 10th(IN-2) and 6th(IN-8). National Journal has them ranked at 9th(IN-2), 8th(IN-9) and 5th(IN-8).

But Bayh and All America PAC stressed that this is NOT the time to get complacent and pull out the champagne... As Ryan on All America PAC states, "...we've made it pretty clear that we cannot take this election for granted. We cannot hope to just sit back and watch the Republicans self-destruct."

Friday, October 06, 2006

Five Questions with Katherine Carr

Katherine Carr is taking on her old nemesis, Dan Burton, once again. Playing David to Burton's Goliath for the third time, Carr is ready for the challenge of running for the Indiana 5th Congressional District seat. One look at her website and it's abundantly clear that Carr prides herself in her patriotism, faith and dedication to both Indiana and the United States.

A longtime community activist, Carr has been involved in numerous community groups, including the Marion County Citizen Alumni Association, St. Patrick Church, American Legion Auxiliary and the VFW Auxiliary, as well as many years teaching.

Mrs. Carr was kind enough to answer my 5 questions...

1. What is the greatest challenge that is facing citizens in Central Indiana and how can their Representative help them in that?
Jobs, education, healthcare and Social Security. I can help by making the right votes and not backing down.
2. What do you think is your strongest asset in running for Congress?
That I am a moderate/conservative in a primarily conservative district. I believe all the people in the 5th are important.
3. When you are elected to Congress, who do you think you¢ll be most like when developing a political style?
Sorry, I can give them to you in order, but get these 5 to work together and you can't lose. I feel that each of these have something about them that I share or want to share in my own makeup.

Bayh-coolness, thinking through what he does, bipartisan, moderate, caring for all, listening to all, able to see ahead and reach across the aisle. ( Don't you think Susan would make a great First Lady?)

Hillary-the passion she has and her ability to draw people to her point of view. She's strong and brilliant.

Casey-his commitment to his beliefs and values.

Biden-a great stateman, stands up for America.

Murtha-a passionate man who sticks to his guns and what he believes in.
4. What has been the biggest challenge while running for Congress?
It might not be good to print the next one, but it has been the most difficult. However, it keeps me centered as I know I should be. I am a definite moderate.

The opposition, fighting an uphill battle with Democrats (those Democrats who run the party) as well as Republicans.
5. The 5th District has some very different demographics, from the suburbs of Indianapolis to small farms. What will you do in Congress to ensure that all of your constituents are treated equally and fairly?
I will have people with the knowledge and ability to represent these groups on my staff and advise me.