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Importantville: 98 Days Until Iowa And Merritt’s Misfire

What's happening—and what's next—at the intersection of Indiana politics and business?

Good morning, and welcome to IMPORTANTVILLE. On Tuesday, it will have been a year since we lost Matthew Tully, the Indy Star political columnist who defined political coverage for the state’s paper of record for years, to stomach cancer. Find more about how to honor his memory by reading this column from Suzette Hackney, and consider making a contribution to his memorial fund.

Welcome to a big week in Indiana politics: Indianapolis Mayoral candidates Joe Hogsett, Jim Merritt, and Douglas McNaughton participate in the final debate tonight at 7 p.m. at MSD Wayne Township’s Chapel Hill 7th and 8th Grade Center. It will be broadcast live by WXIN / Fox59.

On Wednesday, Pete Buttigieg will file for New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary. On Friday, he’ll begin a three-day Iowa bus tour with a speech at the Liberty and Justice Celebration, an event that marked the moment in 2008 when President Obama electrified Iowa Democrats and began his march to win the caucuses.

WHAT I’M WATCHING FOR THIS WEEK:

  • INDY MAYOR’S RACE: Is there anything Merritt can do to reverse what has been a flummoxing 10-month campaign? How will he handle the fallout of launching a demonstrably false attack on Hogsett if asked? Will he apologize? Low turnout is one scenario that could favor his efforts. But early voting is up over 2015 levels by 102%, from 1,277 in 2015 to 2,580 in 2019, according to an unofficial tabulation.
  • BUTTIGIEG IN IOWA: The stakes are high for Buttigieg’s appearance at the Liberty and Justice Celebration: Buttigieg is counting on a speech that continues his upward trajectory in the Hawkeye state. Scroll down for a scenario of how he could win Iowa.
  • IN GOP DELEGATION ON IMPEACHMENT: Indiana GOP Chair Kyle Hupfer said in a statement Friday: “In an era when we’re told ‘democracy dies in darkness,’ House Democrats are holding secretive inquiries. This investigation is a waste of time and Washington needs to move on to real issues like passing USMCA, improving healthcare, cutting government and securing our border.” Nearly every Hoosier Republican is critiquing the process Democrats are employing for impeachment. But how does that party line change as the hearing process becomes more public—as Democrats promise it will be—in the next couple of weeks?

HOOSIERS REACT TO al-BAGHDADI KILLING

  • Pete Buttigieg: “Clearly this is a real blow against ISIS and a positive step in the fight against stateless terrorism, and credit should go to all who were involved. And I think it’s an example of what our special operations and intelligence personnel are capable of around the world.”
  • Sen. Todd Young: “At this watershed moment in the battle against terrorism, we thank the special operation forces who carried out the mission and the thousands of men and women who have led the fight against ISIS.”
  • Rep. Jim Banks, on Fox News: “This is big news… it’s been minimized by so many of the Trump critics this morning. Without minimizing the killing of Osama bin Laden, I don’t want to do that, but I do want compare it to that. Because in some ways, this is much more significant than killing Osama bin Laden. What I mean by that is al-Baghdadi was not just the spiritual leader of ISIS, he was the chief recruiter. He was hunkered down, but he was still recruiting young ISIS fighters coming into the fold because so many of them thought he was immortal.”

AROUND IMPORTANTVILLE

  • Republican State Sen. Jim Merritt made what appears to be his final television ad buy for his mayoral bid late last week. The ad is in the neighborhood of 200 points—roughly 1/10 of Hogsett’s buy—and will run through the final week of the election.
  • Sen. Todd Young supports a House resolution criticizing the impeachment process. “Well I think due process is really important, that’s something we learned during the Cavanaugh hearing, a lot of emphasis on following the appropriate process,” Young told WFIU/WTIU News. “I would look back to the Clinton impeachment, the Nixon impeachment.”
  • Listen to the latest IN Focus episode on the Indy mayoral race, impeachment and Attorney General Curtis Hill’s disciplinary hearing.

IMPORTANTVILLE READS

Zachary Warmbrodt, Politico: “Pence dodges on officials testifying on Ukraine pressure

Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday refused to say whether he believes U.S. officials were lying in testimony bolstering the case that President Donald Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals in exchange for his administration’s support.

CBS “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan repeatedly asked Pence about statements made by officials under oath that they had knowledge of a deal being offered that made military aid contingent on Ukraine opening an investigation targeting former Vice President Joe Biden.

House Democrats have been gathering the testimony as part of an impeachment inquiry. Pence was pressed on the matter Sunday after U.S. diplomat William Taylor told House investigators that Trump tried to withhold military aid and refuse a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president as part of the effort.

“I can only tell you what I know,” Pence said on CBS, denying that there was any quid pro quo.

Trip Gabriel, New York Times: “As Pete Buttigieg Courts Black Voters, His Sexuality Is a Hurdle for Some

Addressing a conference of African-American church congregations in this vote-rich city, Pete Buttigieg quoted scripture on Sunday morning and extolled his “Douglass Plan” to combat racial inequities in America, one of several attempts this weekend to confront his strikingly low support among black voters.

But Mr. Buttigieg also undertook a delicate task before the African Methodist Episcopal worshipers. As a gay, married man addressing a denomination that does not allow same-sex marriage rites, he tried to seek common ground over being members of minority groups whose civil rights have come under attack. It was a nod to his sexuality, following the disclosure last week that the Buttigieg campaign held focus groups that found some black voters in South Carolina were uncomfortable with a gay man as president.

“All of us in different ways have been led to question whether we belong,” Mr. Buttigieg told the pews of black worshipers. “And I know what it is to look on the news and see your rights up for debate. All of us must extend a hand to one another. Because I also know what it is to find acceptance where you least expect it.”

Pat Rynard, Iowa Starting Line: “An Emerging Scenario Where Buttigieg Wins The Nomination

Earlier this year, I thought that the Iowa Caucus would basically decide which candidate emerges as the main opponent to Biden for the duration of the long primary schedule. Now, it seems more likely that it will decide who is Warren’s biggest competitor. It’s possible that becomes Buttigieg.

That’s now where each candidate’s staying power becomes a determining factor. If Biden’s fundraising continues to lag, any new super PACs fail to bolster him, then the former vice president finds himself in a precarious place heading into Super Tuesday.

Holly V. Hays, Indianapolis Star: “Jim Merritt campaign takes down website attacking Joe Hogsett, says it wants to stay ‘laser-focused on the issues’”

A day after removing a false claim about Joe Hogsett’s child support history, Republican mayoral candidate Sen. Jim Merritt’s campaign has taken down a website attacking the incumbent Democrat.

The website drew a scathing rebuke from the Hogsett campaign over its claim that Hogsett, while serving as a United States attorney, had his wages garnished for failing to pay child support.

The claim was removed from the website on Friday, after IndyStar presented Merritt campaign officials with evidence that the assertion was false.

WHERE’S VEEP? He travels to Baton Rouge for a reception for Eddie Rispone’s gubernatorial campaign.

WHERE’S PETE? He’s in D.C., where he appeared at the J Street National Conference with Crooked Media at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center at 10 a.m.

Days to Iowa Caucuses: 98

Days to Indiana Municipal Elections: 7

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading and subscribing.

Adam Wren writes about business, politics, and crime for Indianapolis Monthly—often in the same story.

Follow him on Twitter @adamwren or visit his website at adamwren.me.
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