Importantville: Post-Thanksgiving Leftovers

This week’s rundown of Indiana politics.

Illustration by Kris Davidson

For much of 2018, purveyors of conventional wisdom have pegged Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett as a vulnerable incumbent, one who would likely face a difficult re-election battle, should he choose to run again.

In recent months, though, Hogsett has quietly cemented a record of bipartisan accomplishments and support that may discourage potential challengers from a bid.

First, in October, he won bipartisan approval for the city’s first balanced budget in a decade.

Second, Republicans showed up at his press conference on homelessness and panhandling, and promised passage of that plan. This, after Republicans and State Sen. Jim Merritt, the Republican county chairman and potential mayoral candidate, targeted Hogsett for not having a plan.

And last Monday, Hogsett racked up another bipartisan victory in the passage of Proposal 367, which ushers in criminal justice reform and secures Hogsett a signature accomplishment: the construction of the Twin Aire-based Community Justice Campus, which will include a jail, courthouse and addiction and mental health center.

Meanwhile, Merritt saw his war chest depleted in a closer-than-expected general election race with Derek Camp. According to a campaign finance report filed on Oct. 19, Merritt has about $47,378 remaining. At the same time, Council Republicans appear poised to run with the mayor next year.

All of which raises the question: Who could run and beat Hogsett next year, presuming he runs again? For now, we’ll await that decision, one he is expected to make in the next several weeks.


McKay Coppins, The Atlantic: Trump Isn’t Crazy to Question Mike Pence’s Loyalty

More than any other figure in the administration, Pence has mastered the art of performing his fealty. He speaks of the president in reverent tones, gazes at him with an almost doglike devotion. Even some of the president’s allies, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have marveled to me at how zealously—and frequently—Pence plays the part of Trump apologist in public.

Predictably, Trump tried to dismiss the Times report over the weekend as just another “phony story” from “the enemy of the people.” But the doubts about Pence’s loyalty to the president aren’t entirely paranoid—nor are they new.

Last year, while working on a profile of the vice president, I spoke with several Republicans who told me about a moment during the 2016 election when Pence appeared ready to turn on Trump. The infamous Access Hollywood tape had just been published by The Washington Post, and Trump was facing calls from all corners of the Republican Party to drop out of the race. Rather than rally to his running mate’s defense, Pence initially retreated from the campaign fray and issued a disapproving statement. According to the Times, Trump “has never completely forgotten” this act of disloyalty.

Alan Greenblatt, Governing: ‘Rainbow Wave’ Hits Statehouses

Seven states had never elected an openly gay or transgender legislator before this year. Three of them—Indiana, Kansas and Nebraska—just did.

“I was very honored to be the first here in Indiana,” says J.D. Ford, an openly gay man who will serve in the Indiana Senate. “Obviously, we made state history here.”

Ford is a Democrat, as are nearly all of this year’s successful LGBT candidates. According to Reynolds, all of the 80 incumbent Democratic LGBT legislators who sought reelection won and will be joined by 34 newcomers.

On the Republican side, only five openly gay Republicans ran for reelection, and three of them lost.

Eliana Johnson, Politico: Fiery West Wing meeting led to more power for military at U.S.-Mexico border

President Donald Trump this week presided over an explosive meeting on a new Cabinet order granting the troops deployed at the southern border the right to use lethal force to defend border patrol agents.

Several White House aides and external advisers who have supported the president’s hawkish immigration agenda attended the Monday meeting, which devolved into a melee pitting two of Trump’s embattled aides, White House chief of staff John Kelly and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, against other attendees, according to three people briefed on the exchange.

Kelly and Nielsen initially argued against signing the declaration, which granted the military broad authority at the border, telling the president that the move was beyond his constitutional powers. They were vocally opposed by, among others, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller; Chris Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council; and Brandon Judd, president of the border patrol union. Also present was Vice President Mike Pence, who did not take a stand on the issue, according to one of the people briefed on the debate.

Parker Richards, The Atlantic: The Electoral College Conundrum

Almost half a century before Donald Trump became president, his victory was nearly undone. It was a close thing: The House of Representatives easily passed a constitutional amendment that would have eliminated the electoral college. The Senate was getting closer and closer, just a few votes shy of the required two-thirds majority. Then the midterms came along, and Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana, an auteur of constitutional amendments second only to James Madison, was forced to shelve the proposal.

Bayh’s proposed amendment was the last serious attempt to alter the Constitution and do away with the Electoral College. Four times in American history, the candidate who lost the popular vote has won the Electoral College. Exactly who is advantaged by the institution is up for debate; some experts argue that, mathematically, the residents of larger states are empowered. Others say that small states come out on top. Most, however, agree that swing states get more than their fair share of political power and campaign attention come election time. But it’s unclear whether the system can change, and even those who think it should can’t agree on how to do it.

Bayh saw direct popular vote as “a kind of logical outcome to the continuing expanding of the franchise in the U.S.,” a natural extension of the then-newborn Voting Rights Act, says Jay Berman, a legislative aide to the senator from 1965 to 1972, when he became his chief of staff. (Bayh, who is 90, was not available for comment.) It was a piece of the great project of empowering the average citizen, which Bayh would further soon after with the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which lowered the voting age, and which he would attempt to expand again when he authored the Equal Rights Amendment.

WHERE’S VEEP? He’s in D.C., having lunch with the president.

NEW DENIZEN OF IMPORTANTVILLE: Huck Savage, born on Nov. 23, to Megan and Cam Savage.

Days to 2020: 709

Days to Mayoral Election: 344