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Rokita v. Gregg

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

In an effort to convince members of the Republican State Central Committee to pick him as their party’s nominee to replace Mike Pence on the ballot for Governor, Indiana Congressman Todd Rokita is releasing a poll showing him beating Democrat John Gregg by double digits.

The poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies of 600 likely voters shows Rokita entering the race with a 45-43 lead over Gregg.  However the Rokita campaign says after learning about both their records, the former Secretary of State increases his lead to 54-41.

The poll shows the two are competitive when it comes to name ID in the Indianapolis market, Gregg is at 74 percent, Rokita is at 71 percent.

Rokita also says voters give him high marks for his support of education and redistricting reform.

The Rokita team also says he wins with Independents (49-43), women (52-42) and seniors (58-38).

Rokita is competing with Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb and Congresswoman Susan Brooks.   The state central committee will decide Tuesday who to put on the ballot.

You can view a copy of the poll memo here.

It was conducted this past weekend and has a margin of error of four percent.

Saturday Night, Special

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

For the last eight years it’s been a tradition of mine to work as a bouncer at Nicky Blaine’s on the second Saturday night of Indiana Black Expo’s Summer Celebration.

I did it back I 2006 when the owner, as well as other downtown businesses, would tell me stories of teenagers running the streets and getting out of control .  Things got really bad back in 2010 when Shamus Patton decided to shoot several people.

My, how times have changed.

Thanks to the collective work of IMPD, Indiana Black Expo, the Ten-Point Coalition, parents stepping up and young people getting the message, downtown was the best it had ever been.

The crowds were not only bigger than before, but a lot more diverse as well as a lot more families.

And what made it even better was not only was the police presence a lot smaller, but there were numerous times while talking to officers, random people would come up and thank them for what they were doing and told them to stay safe.   And that says quite a bit in the wake of a lot of what we’ve seen in the news today regarding tensions between law enforcement and certain segments of the community.

The only “issue” I saw was a group called Indy 10, a poor man’s version of the Black Lives Matter Movement was mad at police for having crowd barricades nearby in case they needed to move a lot of people.

But otherwise it went very well.  In fact for the past 2-3 years, that second Saturday night has been clam, peaceful and quite enjoyable.   So if I might make a recommendation, if you get a chance, come on down.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Luckily, I wasn’t.


Be Careful What You Wish For

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Back on June 15, 2015, just hours before he filed for re-election, Indiana Democrats called on voters to “Fire Mike Pence”.

They argued Pence hurt the state with support of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  They also said Indiana was falling behind when it comes to jobs and wages.

I remember the rhetoric quite well.  Now all I can think of is what grandmother Shabazz used to tell her favorite grandson, “be careful what you wish for.”

Democrats in general, John Gregg and Glenda Ritz specifically, have basically built their entire re-election campaigns around Pence and his personality.

What has helped them get traction have been those “Lugar-Daniels-Ballard Republicans” who had soured on Pence because of his prior controversies.  None of those folks are/have/ever will be Democrats,  they just didn’t like Mike.

Well guess what, he’s gone now.  He’s running for Vice-President.

So all take all the lines about how Pence hates the LGBT community, teachers, labor and puppy dogs  and throw them in the trash with the rest of the “Fire Mike Pence” signs.

And if you think any of that stuff is going to work on Eric Holcomb, Susan Brooks or Todd Rokita, then you’ve been spending too much time at the First Church of Cannabis.

If you recall the Bellwether poll, released just before Pence filed for re-election, on the generic ballot Republicans beat Democrats for the Presidency by 12 points, but Pence was basically tied with Ritz and Gregg as possible candidates.    A subsequent poll done a year later showed similar results and further cemented the belief that Pence’s troubles were his alone and weren’t translating to the rest of the ticket.

So now that Pence is gone,  Democrats will have to come up with a new playbook.  Luckily for them Gregg has money in the bank and Evan Bayh in the U.S. Senate race.  Those are the two things that will keep them somewhat competitive, especially since they don’t have Pence to kick around anymore.

Or if I may use the full line Grandma Shabazz used to say, “be careful what you wish for, because not only might you get, but God may give it to you in the way you neither expected nor liked.”

Why Pence is Winning the “Veepstakes”

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Mark April 29 on your calendar because if Mike Pence becomes Donald Trump’s  Vice-Presidential running mate that was the day it all began.

Why April 29?  Wasn’t that the day Pence endorsed Ted Cruz for President?


Okay Abdul, you’re confusing me.  Why would the day Pence endorsed  Cruz for President be the day that started the ball in motion for Trump to pick him as a running mate?

Well as you recall, Pence got a lot of flack for his endorsement because he said nice things about Trump while endorsing Cruz.  Remember how he gave Trump praise for his “knowledge of the Constitution”,  “willingness to take on leadership” and giving a “voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans with the lack of progress in Washington, D.C.” ?

It may have seemed odd at the time, but that is what got Pence on Team Trump’s radar screen.

They were so impressed with how gracious he was with Trump, even though he endorsed Cruz, that they thought he might be worth a look.   After that, all the other factors came into play; the fact he was a Governor, had Congressional experience, appealed to the 35-percent of Republicans who supported Cruz in the primary, his low key approach provides balance to Trump’s more bombastic personality, etc., etc.

Also more importantly, Pence has appeal to Trump’s prior and current campaign managers who were not big fans of each other, but they could both agree on him as a good pick for V.P.

I know this sounds bizarre that the endorsement of one candidate can lead to a good chance of being picked as the running mate for another candidate, but as you look at how the 2016 election cycle has gone so far, why should this surprise any of us?


John Gregg, Family Receive $200,000 in Taxpayer Funded Health Care

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Although he left the Indiana House of Representatives in 2002, Hoosier taxpayers have helped foot the bill for former Speaker and Democratic candidate for Governor John Gregg and his family’s health care  to the tune of $200,000 and taxpayers are expected to pay an additional $36,000 this year.

According to House records,  Gregg, his ex-wife, current wife and dependent sons were all beneficiaries of the program.

The lifetime health benefit was created in mid-2002, however House Speaker Brian Bosma ended it administratively in 2006 and the program was statutorily repealed in 2007.

Records kept by House staff show Gregg is still receiving the coverage.  Coverage for his former spouse ended in June 5, 2006.  Coverage for his current wife began on March 30, 2013 and coverage for his two sons ended on December 31 of 2015.

Those same records also show the House of Representatives has paid $202,863.63 in benefits for Gregg and his family through the end of 2015 and is expected to pay another $36,251.01 in 2016.

According to House records less than two dozen lawmakers have taken advantage of the lifetime heath care program.

I did reach out to the Gregg campaign for a response, however they did not respond.

They did respond to an inquiry by Niki Kelly, Statehouse reporter for the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette who had also been working on the story.

You can read the campaign’s response here.

Innovate or Die

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Thirty years ago my Dad and I went out and bought our family’s first VCR.  Well, he bought it.  I picked it out.  When we got home my Mom was not happy that we, make that he, went out and spent a couple hundred bucks on “some toy for us to play with”.  However when we told he what it did, and how she would never miss another one of her TV shows, she was in a much better mood and I lived to write this.

I bring this up because this story to me seems very symbolic of the changing nature of technology and its impact our economy.  And while a lot of us are willing to adapt, too many of us are not and run the risk of getting left behind.

In today’s Indianapolis Star there is a story about the tug of war between Airbnb, the online home sharing service and the hospitality industry.   Airbnb allows homeowners to rent out their places for people looking for a place to stay for a few days and there’s no room at the inn.  The hospitality industry is screaming about fairness and regulation.  Typical.

I find it amusing how when technology and innovation arrive on the scene, the old economy goes into a tailspin.  While the big fight between Uber, Lyft and the taxi industry may come to mind, I can take you back a lot further.  There was a time when the film industry was ready to go to war over the VCR because it thought no one would go to the movies anymore and just stay home and watch them on tape.  I am not making this up.

Instead of fighting ideas and innovation the old economy should embrace it, and if they’re smart, co-op it.  Think of the industries that have been slow to change and see if they are still thriving or for that matter still around.   (When was the last time you went to Blockbuster Video?)   Heck,  the print media was slow to embrace the Internet and now you can see what’s happening there.

This is Darwinism in its purest form folks, innovate or die.  How hard is that to figure out?



My Big Dem Weekend

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Well, we just wrapped another Indiana Democratic State Convention.  And as anyone who was there will tell you Democrats left their convention on fire and ready to do their best to fire incumbent Governor Mike Pence in the fall, I thought it was only fair that we provided you with some additional perspective that you can’t get anywhere else.  And there’s probably good reason for it.  So here are my five big takeaways from this weekend’s activities…

  1.   John Gregg is a great speaker, but.  Despite our policy differences I will never take away Gregg’s energy, charm and dynamic personality.  He really can get a crowd worked up.  Now with that said, he can also lose focus and get too caught up in the moment like when he told the Indiana Democratic African-American Caucus that Pence was no friend of Black people.  I thought it was a bit much and it implied that Pence was a bigot.  With all due respect to the gentleman from Sandborn, I’ve never met many bigots who expanded education opportunities for poor black children through school choice and vouchers.  In fact, if one really wanted to go out on a limb, one could argue that taking money away from those poor black children that would be used for vouchers so middle, upper and wealthy white families can get subsidized pre-K might better fit that definition.  Just a thought. So next time John, stay focused.
  1.  Bernie’s people are nuts.  What’s the difference between a Bernie Sanders supporter and a die hard attendee at Indy Popcon?  One spends a lot of time in fantasy land, entertaining ideas and concepts that don’t work in reality and when you tell them it’s time to get get back to the real world they get mad at you.  The other wears a costume.   I told that joke while standing in the Convention Hall and got into an argument with a Sanders supporter who mistook me for a delegate.  He told me that Sanders won Indiana and the people spoke.   I told him people can do some crazy things, just look at the Republican who won Indiana.   And don’t even get me started on how the Berniebots spent 30 minutes trying to get failed resolutions concerning superdelegates read into the convention record. Ugh!
  1.  Viva la Latino Vote.   Indiana Democrats can thank Donald Trump for this one.  Democrats think Trump’s remarks regarding Judge Gonzalo Curiel gives them new ammunition to engage their Latino and Hispanic constituents, as well as those who aren’t necessarily political, but aren’t crazy about the guy who wants to build a wall to keep their relatives out of the country.  This was also hinted at in the convention speeches delivered by Lt. Governor candidate Christina Hale and Attorney General candidate, former Lake County Judge Lorenzo Addendo.   Which by the way, someone needs to get Judge Addendo some caffeine.  I am sure he is a nice guy, but listening to him talk was like listening to a slower Paul Harvey and you did not want to stick around to find out the rest of the story.
  1.   Who’s down with LGBT? (Sorry “Naughty by Nature”).   If someone was selling a can of alphabet soup at the State Convention they would have made a killing if those were the only four letters in the can.  In just about every speech, the speaker either mentioned LGBT rights or the catch phrase “who you love”.  The LGBT issue even got a better reception than the “J-O-B” issue. (However if I was dealing with five percent unemployment rate, I’d play down the jobs issue too.)  Now as you all know, I am all for equal rights and I only believe in discrimination based on merit, however I do wonder how much this issue will resonate geographically and demographically?  Of course LGBT rights are a big deal here in Central Indiana, but as you get away from the center of the state, we all know it becomes less of an issue in some smaller places where still a good chunk of Indiana lives.  I also noticed while the younger, more progressive Democrats were on fire about the issue, a lot of the older folks either did the polite golf applause or just kind of sat there.
  1.  Hoosier Democrats love Hillary.    Hillary Clinton may have a 55-percent unfavorable rating, but I can tell you where a good chunk of the other 44-percent were this weekend.  Berniebots notwithstanding, Clinton’s recorded address, as stiff and mechanical as came across, was a hit with the delegates.   And unlike when Donald Trump addressed the Republicans last week, there wasn’t the very loud audible gasp in the audience as if you’re drunk uncle just took the microphone at your wedding and was about to do a toast regarding your new interracial spouse and family.  Of course at one point while watching the video I couldn’t help but think Clinton was going to say, “It is of no concern.  Soon the rebellion will be crushed and Sanders will be one of us.”


Do Your Dime Bag on Your Own Dime

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Here’s a thought.  If someone wants to get unemployment, they should have to be able to pass a drug test.

Why do I bring this up?  I bring it up because Indiana actually has a worker shortage.  Contrary to what you might think, the Hoosier state does not have enough skilled workers and it’s only going to get worse.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce recently published a study revealing that 45% of employers were leaving positions unfilled because they couldn’t find workers to fill the spot.  And while some of that is lack of skills, a lot of that is individuals not being able to pass a drug test.

So here’s one way to address that.   If you want unemployment benefits, you have to agree to random drug testing.  Or if you apply for a job while on unemployment and you fail your drug test, you lose your benefits.

Federal regulations already allow states to tie unemployment benefits to drug testing in certain cases, so there’s no reason why Indiana couldn’t promulgate rules to make that happen.  In fact, there was legislation introduced a few years ago that would have done just that.  However it didn’t pass.  I would assume that because unemployment was much higher lawmakers weren’t too thrilled about creating a barrier to getting benefits.

However, in a universe where unemployment is not only low, but there’s a worker shortage, there is no reason why we shouldn’t tie these benefits to drug testing.

If you want to stay home and get high, that’s your right.  But the conservative-libertarian in me says you should do your dime bag on your own dime.


Dear GOP, I Hope You’re Happy Now

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I think there is a certain amount of irony that on the day the AP reports that Hillary Clinton has the delegates to secure the Democratic nomination for President, Republicans are scrambling to deal with the Donald and his latest Trumpism.

You know, the one about the judge overseeing the lawsuit involving Trump University.  Trump says Judge Gonzalo Curiel is a “Mexican” so he is against Trump because the candidate wants to build a wall on the southern border.   Cabrón!!!

Trump is who he is so no one should really be shocked at the outrageous things he says, but just when you think he’s hit the bottom of the barrel he manages to dig a little deeper..

However, for my Republican friends if you think life was annoying before, just wait.

Because people were “mad at the establishment” you now have a Presidential nominee who is going to continue to double down, make that quadruple down on outrageous comments.

And now instead of talking policy and offering a vision as to why conservative ideas are better than liberal/progressive ones to move America forward you are now going to get the Marco Rubio/John Cornyn treatment.

And note, the only people who will think this stuff is cool will be the Trumpsters (his supporters).  Those of us who are sane will have moved on to other things.  We told you this was going to happen, now you have to live with the consequences.

Hope you’re happy.  I’m off to get some more info on Gary Johnson. He seems like a nice, sane, guy.

The Politics of Credit and Blame

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Recently I heard an elected official give a speech where he touted how the economy was turning around, jobs were coming back, unemployment was dropping, but there was still more work to be done.

Shortly afterwards, I heard someone who opposes that elected official say that while jobs were being created, they weren’t good paying jobs, wages were stagnant, and hard working folks were still falling behind.

Now here’s where it gets tricky.  The elected officials who were touting the good economic news were Barack Obama and Mike Pence.   The ones saying things weren’t all that great were Donald Trump and John Gregg.

Talk about some strange bedfellows.

I have always said that for good or bad, the President and Governor get the credit or blame when the economy does well or goes south, even though the only jobs that government creates are government jobs; that’s just the way things are.

And I have always found it fascinating when politicos try to thread the credit/blame needle of the economy being great or not as bad under the guy on their side of the aisle, however, it’s the Great Depression when it comes to that other guy they’re running against.

The truth is always in the middle.  And the real data shows things are turning around for a major portion of the population, however it mostly the low-skilled and low-educated workers who are getting the short end of the stick.

This is why instead of spending a lot of time playing the credit/blame game, time might best be spent on developing policies and programs to give those folks the opportunity to get ahead and participate in the slow, but solid, recovery.

It’s also a lot easier to stay consistent, politically speaking.

I’m just saying.