All Over The Trail: Hillary Heads To Terre Haute, Bill Hits The Fort?

Demdonkey Hillary Clinton will be in Terre Haute on Thursday, according to the Associated Press:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will take her presidential campaign to Terre Haute when she visits the state Thursday.

An announcement by the New York senator's campaign says she will begin her visit to Indiana in Sen. Evan Bayh's hometown of Terre Haute and that she and Bayh will make additional stops across the state. It provides no other details.

Bayh is from Shirkieville, a small community outside Terre Haute.

Clinton's visit follows one Saturday to Plainfield by her rival for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama.

There's also a rumor out there that former President Clinton will be in Fort Wayne on Tuesday stumping for his wife.

Wingnut Crunch: Zirkle In The Second, Abramson In The Eighth

Weedwhacker In case porn-shredding, guillotine-loving, Second District Congressional candidate Tony Zirkle isn't exactly your cup of crazy tea, the Eighth District offers up its own special brand of nutball:

Evansville resident Paul Abramson announced Monday that he will seek the GOP's nomination in the 18-county 8th District represented by Ellsworth.

Abramson, 50, who describes himself as a self-employed, Internet-based contractor who also edits an academic journal, joins Greg Goode in the Republican race. Goode, 34, left his post as Indiana State University's chief public and governmental affairs officer to campaign for Congress.

"I'm campaigning on the culture war of values," Abramson said. "Our society is split, and the good guys are losing at this time.

"We have a religious heritage. It's not freedom from religion; it's freedom of religion."

Goode, who filed his candidacy papers with the Indiana secretary of state on Monday, welcomed Abramson to the race.

"It's a terribly difficult decision to make," Goode said. "I respect (Abramson) for the decision, and I wish him safe travels as he makes his way around the 18 counties of the 8th District."

Abramson is the founder and editor of www.creationism.org, which promotes "creation science" and calls evolution "primarily a spiritual deception."

Abramson said he is a native of the Pacific Northwest who has lived in Evansville for more than three years. He is divorced with a 22-year-old son in northern California.

For what it's worth, the first question on the FAQ page of his website is "Are you insane?"

If At First You Don't Succeed: People Need Help, Not Rhetoric

Helpwanted This is how a guy who's never had to worry about financing his next meal views shaky economic times:

"We've had a lot of positive announcements here, including Pfizer, that was all on the upside just two years ago, and it's a big disappointment, but you dust yourself off and go find the next one," said Daniels.

Not: "I really feel for what people are going through, and I understand that times are tough, but we're doing the best we can to turn things around."

Not: "It breaks my heart to look around and see folks out of work, scraping to make ends meet, but I want those people to know I get up every day and go to my office looking for ways that we can help."

But: "Yeah, Pfizer really let us down, but don't worry, we'll hold some big press event soon to announce 50 jobs that will arrive three years from now. For the time being, figure something out."

It's all in the delivery, Guv. You have to sound like you actually care about average working Hoosiers, not just about your campaign talking points.

Independent's Day: Major Moves Foe Plans Run For Guv, Needs Sigs

Votingmachine You've got to give the Guv credit for one thing: He sure knows how to motivate people.

One of the leading opponents of the Major Moves toll-road lease that funded Interstate 69 construction is planning to announce his candidacy for governor today.

Steve Bonney is scheduled to announce in Indianapolis that he is running for governor in 2008 as an independent and is starting the process of collecting petitions to get onto the ballot.

Bonney, an Army veteran and self-employed organic farmer, was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit brought against the state in 2006. It challenged the constitutionality of the Major Moves lease of the northern Indiana toll road, a funding program that Gov. Mitch Daniels advocated.

Some of the $3.85 billion funding generated from leasing the 157-mile toll road to a foreign consortium is being tapped to construct the Evansville-to-Crane portion of Interstate 69 through Southwest Indiana and for 10 years' worth of road and highway projects elsewhere.

Bonney's lawsuit suffered a significant defeat in May 2006 when a St. Joseph County judge ruled the plaintiffs would have to post a $1.9 billion bond for the suit to go forward. They appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court but lost, effectively ending the litigation.

According to his campaign biography, Bonney has worked as a college teacher, farmer and president and executive director of Sustainable Earth, a not-for profit organization that promotes small, family farm agriculture in Indiana.

Bonney's Web site says that he is attempting to gather 32,742 valid signatures of registered voters by June 30 in order to get onto the ballot as an independent candidate for governor.

Help On Hold: Disabled Centers May Actually Get The Cash They're Owed

Fssa It took almost six months and a bunch of bipartisan complaining, but Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Mitch Roob has finally decided to send -- with a few strings attached -- already-allocated funds he had been withholding to seven disabled living centers across Indiana.

Bryan Corbin of the Evansville Courier & Press reports:

"A Southwestern Indiana agency that helps the disabled live independently was facing serious cutbacks when the state would not provide $265,000 the program depended upon. Now the state has relented somewhat and is willing to release the funding the Legislature budgeted for seven regional Centers for Independent Living.

"State lawmakers of both parties had complained bitterly that the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, or FSSA, was defying the will of the Legislature when it would not spend the $2.54 million lawmakers had allocated last April for the seven centers.

"One of the seven programs in funding limbo since July was ATTIC Inc., in Vincennes, Ind. The nonprofit ATTIC program assists the developmentally disabled and elderly in living independently, rather than in group homes or nursing homes.

"In 2007, the Legislature had increased funding substantially for the seven programs. ATTIC planned to use its $265,651 to increase its five-member staff by two-and-a-half positions. But when the FSSA did not release the funding, ATTIC could not expand — and had to lay off two staffers, leaving it with three people to serve 125 disabled clients in Knox, Daviess, Gibson, Pike, Martin, Greene and Sullivan counties.

"FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob said the state agency was willing to fund the seven programs but insisted they provide greater accountability for how tax dollars would be spent, using performance measures.

"The impasse persisted for months, with several lawmakers writing letters to Roob and to Gov. Mitch Daniels questioning the non-payment of already-approved funds.

"Late Friday — just four days before the Legislature reconvened for its 2008 session to rewrite state laws — the FSSA softened its position somewhat: It offered to amend contracts to fund the seven programs at the original budgeted levels.

"Roob said the agency was able to leverage federal matching funds with the state money.

"'It has always been our intention to fund the program, but we are not giving anybody a blank check for $2.5 million,' Roob said this week. If they sign the contracts, the programs still must provide performance measures, but would be fully funded."

Brad Ellsworth: Safe As Safe Can Be (And Still Really Good Looking)

Congress Politically speaking, most folks agree that Eighth District Congressman Brad Ellsworth is pretty damn safe in the upcoming cycle. The Evansville Courier & Press reports:

"The Cook Political Report's Dec. 19 report rates the 8th District as 'likely Democratic' in 2008. The neighboring 9th District, represented by Democratic Rep. Baron Hill, is rated 'lean Democratic.'

"'We're not watching the (8th) district because the congressman has done anything wrong,' said Nathan Gonzales, political editor of The Rothenberg Political Report. 'It's where he is rather than who he is.'

"Gonzales cited the 8th District's history of electing former Republican Rep. John Hostettler to six consecutive two-year terms before last year and the fact that Republican President George W. Bush won the district with 62 percent of the vote in 2004.

"'We look at the nature of the district, the numbers, the candidates, the overall state and national trends,' he said. 'We talk to the (party) committees and interest groups and see where they're focusing their money and time.'

"The first official step in the 2008 campaign was taken by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which named Ellsworth as a beneficiary of Frontline, its incumbent-protection program, on Feb. 15 — just six weeks after he was sworn in for his first term.

"DCCC officials did not return a telephone message for this story.

"The Democratic committee's counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee, began targeting Ellsworth early this year with a radio blitz, a virile marketing campaign, a Web site and news releases that have arrived every week since then."

To make matters worse for the NRCC (and it's hard to get worse than lacking money and momentum), they may have to deal with a primary on the GOP side.

"No other declared Republican candidate has emerged, but Evansville resident Paul Abramson says he met with Hostettler for 90 minutes in October to discuss the possibilities.

"Abramson, who described himself as a self-employed Internet-based contractor who also edits an academic journal, said he did not ask for Hostettler's endorsement, and it wasn't offered.

"'I'm still in the 'testing the water' mode,' Abramson said."

Major Moves Money: Guv Awards $30 Million Road Project To Ohio Co.

OrangeconeMaybe the Guv should get extra credit for outsourcing this contract to a company in Oregon and Ohio:

"Work should begin soon on added travel lanes to U.S. 231 in Spencer County after an Oregon, Ohio company was awarded a nearly $30 million contract for the project.

"The E.S. Wagner Company will handle turning U.S. 231 into a four-lane roadway from County Road 1250 North to Indiana 162. It was awarded a contract this week after bidding $29.7 million for the work.

"The project is part of Gov. Mitch Daniels' Major Moves statewide highway improvement program. According to a press release issued by the Indiana Department of Transportation, the work is important because U.S. 231 corridor is becoming a main area artery between Kentucky and I-64."

The Horse Race: 2006 Targeted U.S. Reps Look Pretty Safe Next Year

Thumbsup1 The Rothenberg Political Report updates its 2008 U.S. House rankings. The outlook has not changed for the three Indiana districts that were nationally targeted last year.

U.S. Reps. Brad Ellsworth and Joe Donnelly, in the Eighth and Second Districts respectively, are on the "Democrat Favored" list.

U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, who hails from Indiana's Ninth, remains on the "Leans Democratic" list.

Weinzapfel Should Win: Courier & Press Wants Mayor To Stay Mayor

Checkmark The Evansville Courier & Press picks incumbent Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel for a second term.

"Regarding the question of whether to endorse Democratic Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel, who is seeking a second term, there is no question. There is no rational reason why voters of all political persuasions should not return Weinzapfel to the office when they go to the polls Nov. 6.

"But please understand, we offer that unqualified recommendation before ever getting around to an assessment of Weinzapfel's job performance during his first term. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that his Republican opponent, David Nixon, seems to have no credentials whatsoever to manage the city and its $202 million budget.

"Our request for a meeting with Nixon was not answered."

But that's not the only reason Weinzapfel earns the newspaper's support.

"Even if Weinzapfel had better opposition, he might still have earned our endorsement. In some ways, what he has started during his first term is remarkable. We say 'started' because the proof of real accomplishment would come in his second term when the bills come due.

"To his great credit, Weinzapfel has taken on any number of public issues that could have been dealt with by previous administrations, and he has done some of it with bottom-up leadership. Recall that in the past we were critical here of city leadership that practiced top-down leadership. For example, officials told city residents what the city would do without first getting input from those residents. The failed baseball stadium is the most recent example.

"On the other hand, not only has Weinzapfel utilized the Traveling City Hall, going into neighborhoods to meet with residents and solicit their input, but he also has utilized citizen task forces to examine issues that need attention. These include the aquatics group on swimming pools, the stormwater group on drainage and the advisory board on the stadium.

"Citizens may not agree with the outcome of any one of these efforts, but at the least, Weinzapfel has brought them into the early discussion stages of these issues."

I-69 Update: Where The Road Will Go, How Many Will Have To Move

I69Sorry for the late updates. TDW had another doctor's appointment this morning.

Let's kick things off with this update on the Interstate 69 extension:

"Officials have taken another regulatory step toward expanding Interstate 69 by releasing a 1,000-page environmental impact statement that outlines why they chose the 142-mile route to link Indianapolis and Evansville.

"The state and federal governments released their "Final Environmental Impact Statement" Monday. The document includes expected effects on the economy, traffic, property and ecosystems.

"The selected route, chosen over 11 alternatives, will connect Evansville, Oakland City, Crane, Bloomington, Martinsville and Indianapolis.

"The route will require between 366 and 416 homes and 68 businesses to be moved and will cost between $1.73 billion and $1.83 billion, the impact statement said. The route will save drivers 27 miles compared to existing roads connecting Indianapolis to Evansville. And it will not jeopardize threatened or endangered species, the document said."

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