Good Night And Good Luck: An Open Letter To, Um, Anyone Who Cares

Tdwlogo It's not often that I write in the first person, but since this will be my last post as your friendly neighborhood blogmistress, I suppose it's appropriate that I not talk about myself in a somewhat creepy, distant way.

I have decided, after overcoming the general resistance to change that they beat into you in law school, to join Jim Schellinger's gubernatorial campaign as Communications Director. This means that TDW as you know -- and either love or hate -- it will exist no more.

I will be making arrangements in the next few days either to hand it off or redirect it to someone else's capable hands. (I'm giving some thought to turning it into a group blog. Let me know if you're interested in helping out.)

We've had a good run these past three years, but you can't be the Nastiest Woman In Indiana Politics forever without some long-term effect on your soul. It was time for a change, and I'll admit that motherhood has made it substantially more difficult to be mean. When a four-month-old cracks a legitimate, non-gassy smile and starts cooing at you, it's hard not to smile back.

A bit more on my decision: I've known Jim Schellinger for more than a year, and he and his wife, Laura, are two of the most caring, genuine people I've ever met. Jim's commitment to the state and his life story impressed me from the get-go, but watching him interact with Hoosiers is what hooked me.

When I was up in South Bend at Dyngus Day, I got that chance to hang out at the Hoosier Tap with Jim, Laura and their families. I saw two people who not only love each other but who also love Indiana and want to make it a better place to live.

We often hear politicians talk about the American Dream with the 2.4 kids, white picket fence and some breed of large, shaggy dog running around the yard. It's nice imagery, but it's all the more compelling when it comes true.

To me, Jim Schellinger, with his humble beginnings and lifetime of hard work, personifies the American Dream. He's proof positive that you can achieve what you put your mind to achieving -- and that you don't have to lose your values along the way.

Not only has Jim not forgotten where he came from, but he embraces it and wants to make sure that everyone has the same opportunities he did to succeed. He is, to put it one way, everything Mitch Daniels pretended to be on the campaign trail four years ago. (Without all the ill-founded ideas about selling off the state and screwing over working Hoosiers.)

That's why I'm going to work for him.

I've spent the last three years beating up Mitch Daniels because I don't believe in his agenda, and I think he put on a flannel shirt, rolled around the state in an RV and misled us into thinking he was one of us.

But there's a difference between advocating against something you dislike and advocating for something or someone you believe in.

I was at an event the other night where someone in the crowd asked Jim why he was running for Governor. His answer was essentially that after years of watching government and witnessing things with which he disagreed, he felt like it was time for him to put up or shut up.

I feel the same way, except that I am going to put up and shut up. At least with respect to my blogs.

I want to thank you for helping make TDW the strange little phenomenon it has become over the past few years. I've had a lot of fun, and I think that amid the jokes and snark, maybe we've done a few decent things. (Yes, Glenn Murphy, I'm talking about you and your predatory ways.)

But all good things must come to an end -- or at least be passed along to someone else.

Whether you loved TDW or hated it, thanks for reading. I'll try to post details about the future of the site over the weekend before starting my new job on Monday.

Adios for now.

Part One: Schellinger Releases Jobs Plan, Focuses On Worker Training

Schellinger_jim2 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Schellinger released his economic development plan, the first in a series of such announcements, today at the Statehouse. (You can read the plan in its entirety here.) The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:

Democratic candidate for governor Jim Schellinger wants to base economic development on a bottom-up style that includes work-force training, small-business advancement and pushing green jobs and buildings.

Schellinger, president of CSO Architects in Indianapolis, is scheduled to unveil his plans at an early afternoon news conference at the Statehouse. IBJ obtained an advance copy of Schellinger's 13-page "Pick Up Indiana Jobs" plan.

Earlier this month, his primary election challenger, Jill Long Thompson, called for focusing economic development policy on broad issues that include tax incentives, reforming health care and education policy.

The Democratic nominee who wins the May 6 primary will face incumbent Mitch Daniels in the November general election.

Schellinger's approach contrasts with Daniels, a Republican who has concentrated on aggressive efforts to contact corporate leaders and attract their expansions.

Schellinger's plan notes that Indiana has lost 27,700 manufacturing jobs since Daniels took office. Unemployment filings have become the third-highest in the nation, and the state still suffers from high rates of personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures, he said.

He proposes increasing educational opportunities for the disadvantaged by adding $1 million in state funding for advanced manufacturing training through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. He also would open unused space in state university, community college or technical classrooms for anyone receiving unemployment benefits and whose income is less than three times the federal poverty level.

Schellinger aims to address the shortage of nurses with a $1 million scholarship and student-loan-forgiveness fund. And he proposes spending up to $7 million more annually on state-administered adult education.

A new "Office of Small Business Advancement" would be staffed by professionals to help small-company owners find tax incentives, federal assistance and access to local business incubators. The office also would help create health care insurance pools that small businesses could join in order to lower their premiums.

Indiana's health care tax credit would be increased to $100 per employee to encourage employers to provide health coverage, the plan says. Companies would be eligible for up to $5,000 in credits.

Schellinger's third major emphasis is "green-collar" jobs.

I Love You, Indiana: But How Do We Know You Won't Screw Us Again, Guv?

Kiss The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette takes note of the Guv's new television ad:

Gov. Mitch Daniels has rolled out a new campaign commercial, and much of it borrows from his 2004 campaign, complete with images of the RV and trips to diners. "Travelin' the state, seein' the small towns, stayin' in people's houses," Daniels says at the beginning of the commercial.

The governor also tackles head-on the idea that some Hoosiers believe he made too many changes – "too much, too soon" in his words.

"I don't expect anybody to agree with all of (the changes), there are too many," he says.

Here's one person with whom the Guv stayed during the 2004 campaign who probably won't be featured in the 2008 version.

By the way, is anyone else kinda creeped out by the underlying message of the Guv's updated version of the same-old-same-old message?

As in: "I know my treatment of you has been a little rough, Indiana, but I brought you chocolates and flowers, and I promise to never, ever be mean to you again if you'll just give me this second chance to make things right."

Let The Speechifying Begin: A Few Photos From The Dyngus Day Fun

Megaphone Dyngus Day is over, and TDW is tired, but not so tired that she doesn't have time to upload a few photos from the two venues -- the West Side Democratic Club and the Hoosier Tap -- where she joined with fellow Democrats to drink a few beers and chat about politics this morning and afternoon.

Both places were packed, especially the former one, where former President Bill Clinton and former First Kid Chelsea Clinton talked up wife/mom Hillary Clinton's campaign. Former Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend also heaped praise on Mrs. Clinton.

Former U.S. Rep. and 9/11 Commission member Tim Roemer spoke as a surrogate for presidential hopeful Barack Obama, and both gubernatorial candidates, South Bend native Jim Schellinger and former U.S. Rep. Jill Long Thompson, got their turn at the podium.

Schellinger and his wife, Laura, showed up a bit later at the Hoosier Tap to share in the festivities there. (For her part, that's where TDW wound up because it was nearby and not swarming with people with plastic cords in their ears.) Those photos after the jump, but first, a few from the West Side Democratic Club:

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Continue reading "Let The Speechifying Begin: A Few Photos From The Dyngus Day Fun" »

Return Of The Fluffy: Guv Tries To Rebuild His Public Image On The Air

The Guv has launched his first re-election ad. It talks about traveling the state, talking to Hoosiers and making change -- sometimes change that people don't like.

The overarching message seems to be that he knows he pissed people off, but he deserves a second term to make right his mistakes.

Or maybe we should just elect someone who doesn't make people mad in the first place because that person pays attention to Hoosiers instead of acting unilaterally like he's the smartest dude in the room.

Objectively, this isn't a bad ad, but it's also not a very memorable one. It does, however, give us a clear indication that the Guv intends to run 2004 Campaign Redux in an attempt to convince people that he really is a likable guy who groks average working Hoosiers, not some hand-me-down Bushie with out-of-touch talking points and a stubborn streak.

Here's the new ad, which appears to have been made by the same folks behind Jon Elrod and Dan Burton's television campaigns:

And if you can't remember the ads he ran in 2004, here they be. You can bet he won't be running the outsourcing one ($2 billion and counting!) or the one featuring Dubya's praise (universally deplored!) again:

Trickling Down: Shifting The Tax Burden Means Biz Folks Will Take The Hit

Taxman The Indianapolis Business Journal looks at how the Guv's property tax "reform" plan was funded -- chiefly by raising the sales tax and shifting the tax burden to businesses.

Property tax reform is now Indiana law. Hoosier homeowners are thrilled. But many corporate leaders grumble the historic deal was brokered on the backs of business.

Topping their concerns is the new 3-percent property tax cap for commercial and industrial properties, which they fear will slow business expansions and discourage companies from moving headquarters to the state. Lawmakers granted far greater relief to homeowners, whose tax bills will be capped at 1 percent of their homes' values. They set the cap at 2 percent for rental property.

Some business leaders also are uneasy with provisions in the reform bill that hike the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent. The increase won't pinch just consumers, they point out, since 20 percent to 40 percent of all transactions are business to business.

And they're frustrated that lawmakers put off tackling major reforms to make government more effective and efficient—moves that are key to putting tax bills in check.

The Legislature passed the political hot potato of whether to eliminate township assessors in urban areas like Marion County to voters, who will consider the question in a November ballot referendum.

Though lawmakers next year plan to tackle reforms proposed in last year's Kernan-Shepard government-efficiency report, business leaders fear lawmakers' resolve will wane now that they've quieted the hue and cry from homeowners.

The IBJ also pens this editorial on the issue of actual government reform:

Lawmakers got a start this year by agreeing to take over some expenses, such as child welfare and certain public safety pensions, previously the responsibility of local government. Make no mistake, though, the heavy lifting will begin next January. That's when legislators will be asked to streamline local government or give locals the flexibility to do it on their own. The people who govern our cities and towns should expect no less from a state government that professes its desire for local spending restraint.

Luckily, legislators already have a blueprint for change in the form of the Kernan-Shepard report on local government reform. Delivered last December, it recommends dramatic reductions in the number of governmental units and elected officials as a way to lower costs and enhance accountability.

The Guv got what he wanted, and he might be able to fool people into thinking it's the end-all-be-all solution, but it most assuredly isn't. He once again did what he's famous for doing: avoiding a truly bold decision for something that's politically easy. (See also: his Iraq war spending estimate.)

In this instance, not only did he not solve the problem, but was held completely unaccountable for helping create the problem he's allegedly been up in arms about since he found out people were pissed at him. Short-term, reactionary thinking at its finest.

Who's Gonna Win? Pulliam Asks Republicans To Weigh In On Dem Primary

Demdonkey Russ Pulliam talks to a bunch of Republicans about who they think will win the Democratic gubernatorial primary:

Some Northern Indiana Republicans think Thompson could win the primary, despite Schellinger's advantages. State Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, says her campaign is highly visible in his part of the state.

"She's all over the place. She's been up there 10 to 15 times in the last few weeks," Kruse said. "She's a worker. She has better name identification. She's getting out more. Schellinger might do better at a delegate convention."

State Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Lakeville, also sees more of Thompson.

"I think she's probably a harder worker," the Northwest Indiana representative said. "I see more of her tracks up there."

Former state Republican Chairman Rex Early contends that money still matters. "Whoever's got the most money in the primary wins," he said. "I'm still laying my money on Schellinger."

Yes, yes, Pulliam also talked to some Democrats, including former State Rep. Ed Mahern, who addressed the issue of the presidential candidates dominating the paid media market, State Rep. John Day, who talked about combining the ticket, and non-profit founder Mike Feeney, who praised Schellinger but not his campaign.

But the people Pulliam polled about the candidates' effect on the trail were all Republicans, which is kind of a disservice to Democrats voting in the May primary.

Then again, Pulliam also thinks there's no way anyone can beat Daniels because of the totally awesome property tax "reform" bill he just signed. More on that in a separate post.

Thompson may well be soaring based on her name ID in Northern Indiana, but Pulliam probably should have asked Democrats, not Jackie Walorski, Dennis Kruse and Rex Early, to talk about the race. Something tells TDW he wouldn't call her for comment on Daniels' job performance.

Elsewhere In The State: Northwest Indiana Mayors Endorse Schellinger

Approved_2 While Jill Long Thompson was talking ethics at the Statehouse today, her Democratic primary opponent, Jim Schellinger, was picking up a few more endorsements in Northwest Indiana.

Crown Point Mayor David Uran, Portage Mayor Olga Velazquez and District 19 State Representative Shelli VanDenburgh gave Schellinger their stamp of approval at a press conference today.

Blue Indiana reports that Schellinger also put out a statement about the five-year anniversary of our invasion into Iraq:

"The costs of this war have been high. More than 100 Hoosier soldiers have lost their lives fighting this war, but they live on in the memories of their loved ones and as symbols of the ultimate sacrifice made by some to protect us all. Today, we reflect on those who have served long months away from their families, giving up so much to put their lives on the line.

"We pray for their safe and speedy return, that they may once again tuck in their children, kiss their spouses and plant their feet firmly each morning on American soil."

Primary Colors: Thompson Talks Ethics, Takes A Swipe At Schellinger

Gavel Since so many of you seem to want to talk about Jill Long Thompson's ethics proposal, here's the Associated Press story about her press conference today:

Democratic candidate for governor Jill Long Thompson announced a series of proposals Wednesday that she said would make the state's campaign finance and ethics laws and regulations more transparent.

They include banning companies and their executives who do business with state or local government from donating to state political campaigns while they are under contract and for two years after their work is completed. Owners of riverboat casinos in Indiana are currently banned from making such donations.

Limited liability companies could donate no more than $5,000 to a state campaign per year, the same limit placed on corporations. They also would have to disclose the sources of their funding.

She also said if elected she would voluntarily submit all agency appointees to the Indiana Senate for confirmation, and seek to have such a requirement put in state law. They also would have to disclose publicly their financial investments and holdings.

The former Indiana congresswoman faces Jim Schellinger, president of an Indianapolis architecture firm, in the May 6 Democratic primary. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels is unopposed for his party's nomination for re-election.

Long Thompson said while she did not believe state government was corrupt, "I think it's important to have full disclosure and uphold the highest ethics in government."

Candace Martin, Schellinger's campaign press secretary, said Schellinger was very committed to ethics and government reform.

"He believes we seriously need to look at positive ways to reform state and local government," Martin said.

Asked at the event about Schellinger's new campaign ad, Thompson couldn't resist taking a swipe at her Democratic challenger. Jim Shella reports on his blog:

Jill Long Thompson told a Statehouse news conference today that she will have statewide television ads on the air "soon."

When asked to comment on ads by her opponent in the Democratic gubernatorial nomination battle, Jim Schellinger, she first said that she doesn't comment on ads by others and then commented.

"I'm reminded of the Seinfeld episode," she said.  "Its all about nothing."

You can view the biographical ad in question here.

On The Teevee: Schellinger Ad Earns Ink, Thompson Waits To Go Up

Schellinger_jim2 Niki Kelly of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reports on gubernatorial candidate Jim Schellinger's new television ad. Schellinger is the first statewide candidate to hit the airwaves this cycle.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jim Schellinger beat his opponents to the airwaves last week, going up on television with the race's first ads in mid-March.

Residents in the Indianapolis and South Bend areas were first to see them, but the campaign promises to go statewide within a few weeks. The television ad has begun to air in Fort Wayne.

"It's important to be up first because we need to make sure voters know who our candidate is," said Robert Kellar, communications director for the Schellinger campaign. "Often, people will be open to your ideas and policies, but they need to know who you are first."

That’s why the campaign started with a basic biographical introduction of Schellinger. It uses family photos and sports memorabilia to tell the story of Schellinger growing up in South Bend, the sixth of eight kids, in a working-class home. He then worked his way through college and built a successful architecture firm.

Later, the ad shows Schellinger participating in meetings and walking a factory floor with a worker. It ends with the tagline "leadership that's like us."

Annual campaign finance reports filed in January showed Schellinger with a sizable money lead over fellow Democrat Jill Long Thompson – $1.8 million on hand compared with $436,000. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels dwarfs them both with $6.7 million on hand.

Jeff Harris, communications director for Long Thompson, said she hasn't started television ads yet because early polling shows she is ahead of Schellinger in name recognition.

"Hoosiers are just beginning to pay attention," he said. "We're comfortable with our ability to wait and feel once we go up on television, we’ll be able to sustain our lead."

The Thompson campaign sent out a direct mail solicitation that arrived in mailboxes, including TDW's, yesterday. In it, she cites and includes a February poll that showed her leading Schellinger prior to the start of his paid media campaign.

The real question, however, is when -- not if -- the Democratic presidential candidates, who are flush with cash, start dumping money into television ads here.

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