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Winners, Losers and Warning Signs

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Winners, Losers and Warning Signs

Since the May primary is officially over, it’s time to do the annual post-mortem winners and losers blog post.  Feel free to add your own in the comment section…


  • Donald Trump, obviously. Hoosiers not only gave him 53 percent of the vote but him on the clear path to the GOP nomination.  Good luck uniting your party.
  • Bernie Sanders. The old socialist puts together a coalition and beats Hillary Clinton.  Not that it matters at the convention, but you take your wins where you can get them; just not the delegates.
  • Todd Young. A superior air and ground campaign, coupled with missteps by his opponent and bad press at the end vaulted him to likely be the next U.S. Senator from Indiana.
  • Jim Banks and Trey Hollingsworth. Both men managed to navigate a crowded field and come up with victories.  Albeit Hollingsworth’s will be short-lived if he can’t unite 9th CD Republicans because Shelli Yoder and the Democrats are definitely going to target him.
  • David Long. The President Pro Tempore took his challenger seriously and beat the hell of him, 73-27.
  • Luke Kenley. (See David Long)



  • Ted Cruz. I had written a Facebook post earlier saying Indiana would either Cruz’s Alamo or Gettysburg.  Turns out it was both.  And by the way, we broke the news five hours before it was official that Cruz was preparing a concession speech where he would suspend his campaign and it made Fox News.  I’m just sayin.
  • Hillary Clinton. In a state where she gets the support of Evan Bayh, Joe Donnelly, Joe Hogsett and Andre Carson and she still loses to the old Socialist from Vermont.  Ouch!  She even lost Marion County.  Get some band aids.
  • Marlin Stutzman. You would have thought Stutzman could have thrived in the “outsider” environment, however between joining the Young petition challenge, the campaign finance issues, the out of state consultants and running out of money at the end, it was the perfect storm to lose in.
  • Everyone who ran against Jim Banks and Trey Hollingsworth. Although both only got about 35 percent of the vote,  that’s all you need in crowded field and had not everyone and his mother run in those seats, it might have been a different story, much like the Presidential race.
  • Pete Miller. Although a nice guy, Miller got it from both sides.  The far right had an axe to grind over RFRA and LGBT rights and there was an undercurrent by some local folks that he just wasn’t representing his District.  A bad combination.
  • Casey Cox. He got a far right challenge over RFRA, but also I am told as the author of the abortion bill that banned abortions based on race, gender and disability, some Democrats crossed over to support his opponent.
  • The guys who ran against David Long and Luke Kenley. I’d call the cops after the beating you got.
  • Curt Smith, Indiana Family Institute. Not only did Ted Cruz get his clocked cleaned.  Smith’s efforts to take out the Senate President failed.  And Smith even lost his race to be convention delegate.  Yes, he did managed to help take out Miller, but that’s like taking home a box of Rice-A-Roni, a case of Turtle Wax and a copy of the home game after losing on Jeopardy.


Warning Signs

  • Mike Pence and John Gregg. Although it might be easy for hard Ds and Rs to paint Pence and Gregg as either winners or losers after last night (Pence getting nearly 200,000 more primary votes than Gregg or Pence’s under-vote in some Republican areas) it’s actually a little more complicated than that.  In fact it’s so complicated; you will have to read about it in my next column on one of my various media platforms.  I promise to let you know when it goes up.

Trump Should Welcome a Contested Primary

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

You know for a guy who supposedly got rich because of his negotiation skills, you would think Donald Trump would be French kissing the idea of a contested Republican convention instead of whining about the possibility.

Think about it.

What happens in a contested convention?  If no candidate has a clear majority of delegates after the first vote, the wheeling and dealing begin.  Trump has gotten rich doing that so why worry?

Trump claims that he can build a wall on the border and make Mexico pay for it.  He says he can renegotiate our trade deals with China and Japan and eliminate our trade deficit.  And he called the Iranian nuclear deal a sham and says he could do a lot better.  So if he can negotiate all these items, why should he be worried about a few delegates?

And when you break it down, it’s really not that many.

Remember, to get the Republican nomination for President, you need 1,237 delegates.  After Wisconsin, Trump has 740 or 47 percent of the current total.   If he stays on this trajectory he will have about 1162 delegates by convention time, which is 75 delegates short of what’s needed to win the nomination..

So you mean to tell me one the most famous billionaires in America who has been negotiating multi-million and billion dollar deals for decades is worried about convincing 75 people to change their minds and support him for President?  Seriously?

Trump who plans to bring the Chinese to their knees, make Mexico fork over a few billion pesos to build a wall and bomb the you know what out of ISIS is worried that he can’t 75 Republicans to change their mind and support him for President?

If that’s the case then it appears that rumors of Trump’s deal making abilities may have been grossly exaggerated.

When Third Parties Become First Choice

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

One day I was asked that if it came down to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who would I vote for President?   My answer was Justin Trudeau because I would be living in Canada. (Rimshot!)  But seriously folks,  when you take a good look at what’s been happening at the national level and to a lesser degree, the state level, third party candidates are starting to look a lot better to a lot more people.

A recent Monmouth national poll had Libertarian Presidential candidate and former two-term New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson at 11 percent in a three-way match up with Clinton and Trump.  Clinton was at 42 percent, Trump came in at 34 percent.   And before you accuse Johnson of “stealing” votes from Republicans thus helping elect a Democrat, the data showed he pulled about equally from both candidates.  Actually he pulled slightly more from Clinton than Trump.   And the main reason for his support, you guessed it, people are really tired of two-party system and the current crop of candidates.

Here locally, while the Republican and Democratic candidates have pretty much settled on their gubernatorial candidates, Libertarians actually have a contest between longtime party activist and construction company owner Rex Bell of Wayne County and Fishers businessman Jim Wallace, who sought the GOP nomination in 2012.   I sat down with both of them and moderated a debate and they’ve both encountered a lot more support for a third party candidate than in previous years.  And even on my own website, Indy Politics, I am running an informal poll and so far nearly 60 percent of the  close to 1,000 respondents so far say they would be willing to support a third party candidate.

Why are so many people taking a new interest in third parties?  It’s easy, they are tired of the current two-party system; the bickering, the ineffectiveness, the gamesmanship that doesn’t lead to anything, the inside baseball, you name it.   Normally third parties only get nominal attention, unless there is something really big going on, like a Ross Perot in 1992.  This year is different.  Will they win, probably not.  But will their presence be felt, definitely.

Politics 101 – Know How to Count

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

One of the  first things they teach you in Politics 101 is how to count, especially when it comes to the number delegates needed to win a nomination.  Because now that we are past Super Tuesday, knowing how to count delegates is more important than the actual delegate count.

This is important because while Donald Trump has a clear lead in the delegate count, there’s a lot more to it.  Try to keep up.

Using Real Clear Politics  as our reference point, Trump clearly leads with 316 delegates.  A candidate needs 1,237 to win.  That means Trump has  26 percent of the delegates he needs to win.  However, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson and John Kasich have a combined 365 delegates.  So when you look at total delegates (everyone else who dropped out notwithstanding)  Trump has 47 percent of current total delegate count, everyone has 53 percent.  And remember a majority gets you the nomination, not a plurality.

Now here’s the second thing to think about here.  Trump does very well when there is an open primary system.  He won big in new Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Massachusetts which are all open and anyone can vote as long as you are registered.  He did not do so well in Alaska, Oklahoma and Iowa which are closed primaries.  Why does this matter?  There are 21 contests between now and the end of the month, seven caucuses, 11 primaries and three conventions. Fifteen of those are closed, so only registered Republicans can vote, which means they are structurally favored for someone other than Trump.

Also throw in the fact that out of those 21 contests, only seven are winner take all and that depends on breakdowns of congressional district delegates versus winner take all delegates.  And don’t even get me started on the rules regarding proportionality.  It’s even more complicated.

So what’s the moral of the story.  Like I said, you have to know how to count.  And after looking at the map for the next 30 days, anyone who thinks Donald Trump has this election in the bag, definitely does not know how to count.


Cui Bono

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

In case you’re wondering what the heck “cui bono” means, it’s a Latin phrase which literally translates into “to whose profits”. It’s used in the context of always asking who stands to profit when some action is proposed or takes place. It’s a phrase that I use whenever I see government proposing new rules and regulations.  And ironically, I asked myself this question quite a bit this week over at the Statehouse.

You see, I am a big believer in the free market, so when I see things that appear to hint towards protectionism and stifling competition, I get a little concerned and start asking “cui bono”?   There were three things that popped up this week over at the Indiana General Assembly that fell under that category; chicken farms, electric cars and vaping.

For example, HB 1267 originally called for tougher inspections and more regulations for chicken farms with fewer than 20,000 chickens.  Twenty thousand may seem like a lot, but in the world of poultry farming it’s a small number.  And usually those farmers are part of the “farm to table” movement.   In fact, it’s so small it originally had me thinking that someone was trying to make the small poultry farmer’s life more miserable.  Luckily there were some legitimate health concerns and thanks to outgoing Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann and her team, a compromise was worked out so that small poultry farmers could operate and the public health could be protected.

The other example that came across my radar screen was the Tesla controversy.  Tesla, the electric car manufacturer, wants to expand in Indiana.  Tesla wanted to sell vehicles directly to the consumer.  Under Indiana law, only dealers can sell directly to the public and a manufacturer must have a dealer’s license.  HB 1254 would have prohibited manufacturers from getting dealer licenses and making those direct sales.   Once again, my red flags start to go off.  The big opponents of this are usually the traditional automotive industry which has a vested interest in the current system.   Supporters of the bill said Indiana’s auto laws are centered around a dealership, especially when it comes to titles and consumer protections; saying consumers should have a local recourse in the event there is a problem with the vehicle. I think there are ways to protect consumers while allowing for a new business model, luckily the measure is headed to a summer study committee.

The final bill that came across my computer screen, was one regarding “vaping”, or e-cigarettes, HB 1386.  The state is promulgating new rules regarding the manufacturing and the chemicals used in e-cigarettes which proponents say are necessary for security and public safety, while smaller “mom and pop” vaping shops say it would give unfair advantage to bigger manufacturers while putting them out of business.   For me, the jury is still out on this one.  I totally get the public safety aspect of anytime we’re talking about chemicals being manufactured from human consumption.  However, I don’t completely buy the argument that the bigger companies are pushing these rules completely out of concern for the public health when the rules also make it easier for them to make a few bucks and harder for some other folks. Hopefully lawmakers will keep that in mind as we wind down the session and find a balance that works for everyone, big and small alike.

Like I said, I am all for the free market, but I don’t want Indiana to turn into Thunderdome, either.   This is why whenever government comes up with a new rule or regulation, particularly under the guise of consumer protection or public health, it never hurts to ask “to whose profits”?   This is not to say that there aren’t legitimate consumer health and safety needs, but it helps to know who stands to make a few bucks on the side in the process.


This Isn’t the Candidate You’re Looking For

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I had the chance to meet former Florida Governor Jeb Bush a few years ago when he was in Indianapolis. We chatted for a while and I thought he was very thoughtful, engaging, even tempered and while principled, also pragmatic.

Unfortunately for Bush, that’s not what the majority of the GOP primary electorate has been looking for this cycle.  In fact, it seems they want the opposite.

Instead of thoughtful, they want simplistic.

Instead of engaging, they want polarizing.

Instead of even tempered, they want angry.

Instead of principled and pragmatic, they want dogma and demagoguery.

And instead of choosing a Republican Governor from a state that has gone blue in the last two Presidential elections, a plurality is picking someone who alleges to be an outsider and who has manipulated government for the last few decades to get rich off the system.

Now this isn’t to say that Bush wasn’t without flaws.  His even temper could easily be mistaken for a lack of passion making it difficult for for voters to make that necessary emotional connection.  Also, the fact that his father and brother were both President did not help in a time where voters were looking for something different.  And to be honest, he seemed like someone who more comfortable governing than campaigning.

But such is the world of politics.  You might say timing is everything.  You not only have to have the organization, money and discipline to compete, but you also have to be what voters are looking for at the time.  I point to John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama as examples.  Each ran as agents of change in one form or another and appealed to an electorate that was tired of what they had seen in the previous administration.

Bush was ultimately a victim of bad timing.  He wasn’t the candidate Republicans were looking for.  Now it’s time to move along.

Carrier, Capitalism and Candidness

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I am a tried and true capitalist.  I believe in free markets.  And I believe in always doing what’s best for your economic interests.  I also believe in being honest about it.

I bring this up because of the announcement this week that United Technologies Corporation, the parent company of Carrier was relocating its facilities here in Indianapolis and Huntington to Mexico.  Approximately  1400 people are going to lose their jobs over the next couple of years.  Even more families are going to be hurt and the west side of Indianapolis and several eastern parts of Hendricks County will feel the impact.

I get a business making a business decision.  The goal of a business is to make money.  I have several business ventures and I don’t do them out of the kindness of my heart.  However, whenever I deal with someone, I am straight up that I am out to make money.  It would have been nice for Carrier to be straightforward and honest about its decision.

Carrier says the reason that it was relocating was because of federal regulations, but when pressed by U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly  to name one regulation, Chris Nelson of Carrier Corporation, the President of Carrier’s  HVAC systems and services for North America, he couldn’t.

Carrier also talked about being closer to its suppliers in Mexico, but once again, when pressed by Donnelly to name which parts and supplies they couldn’t get here in Indiana or whether they would get a better deal on the parts, Carrier came up short.

So what is this really all about?  Wages, plain and simple.  Carrier pays at least $24 an hour to its employees, in Mexico it’s less than $5 a day.   It’s cheaper to manufacture products south of the border, I get it.  So just be honest and straightforward about it.  (And pay back all the state, local and federal tax credits you’ve received in the process).

Carrier wants to increase its profit margin by lowering its labor costs.   I get it.  I understand it.  It would just be nice if they were honest about it.


Mike Pence’s Perfect Pick

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

“I don’t have to support both of them, just one of them.”

That was the quote given to me yesterday by a long-time Republican, when I asked him about Governor Mike Pence nominating former State Chairman Eric Holcomb to be the next Lt. Governor, replacing Sue Ellspermann.

And that quote sums up why Holcomb makes sense.

Many times Republican Governors need to pick running mates to shore up their conservative credentials, for Pence, this is just the opposite.  Since RFRA, Pence’s favorability amongst those moderate/business Republicans has not been all that great and many of them live in the doughnut counties which he needs to win big if he wants to get re-elected in November.

And it’s not just RFRA.  Holcomb understands how state government works from his days with Mitch Daniels.  He was running a statewide race prior to getting the call from the Governor.  He could also get relatively easy confirmation from the Indiana General Assembly from his days with being a former party Chairman.  And there would not be a need for a special session, which the Governor and Speaker are adamant about not happening.

Also, he is from the same part of the state as John Gregg, which doesn’t hurt either.

And with respect to possible conflicts between Pence and Holcomb, I can assure you before Holcomb decided to take the job there was a lot of talk about how those issues would be handled and if you don’t think Holcomb won’t give Pence very frank, candid advice, which sometimes the Governor might not want to hear, you are wrong.

Holcomb is a smart pick and if Pence’s re-election was ever in jeopardy, his chances for winning just got a whole lot better.


The Local LGBT Battle

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I was not surprised when Senate President Pro Tempore David Long announced that the GOP caucus could not reach a consensus on legislation to add sexal orientation to the state’s civil rights and so the bill effectively died in the Chamber.

In fact, I told you this would likely happen.  So now the question is where exactly does this issue go?   I’ll tell you.  It goes back to the trenches where LGBT rights supporters have had their most success.  In other words, they need to refocus on efforts to pass local human rights ordinances.

According to Indiana Competes, currently  24-percent of Hoosiers live in a city or town with a fully inclusive Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) that covers both sexual orientation and gender identity.  Thirty-four percent live in communities that have some protections or lack enforceability, for example while there is no ordinance there might be an executive order on the books or there’s a city policy prohibiting discrimination in hiring..

Communities with fully inclusive and enforceable HROs include: Indianapolis/ Marion County, South Bend, Carmel, Hammond, Muncie, Anderson, Columbus, New Albany, West Lafayette, Zionsville, Terre Haute and Bloomington.

And ironically this is where most of Indiana’s economic growth is taking place.  One of the criticisms of passing statewide protection is that Indiana’s economy continues to thrive without one.   Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Indiana is thriving, but it’s in the places that have local HROs.  More than 82 percent of Indiana’s the new economic investment commitments announced by the Indiana Economic Development Commission between April and December 2015 were in communities with HROs.   And more than 58 percent of new jobs and more than 90 percent of all ‘high-wage’ jobs announced in Indiana were created in communities with comprehensive HROs.

And that’s the key selling point.   Based on my conversations with lawmakers from smaller communities, jobs are the big issue as their constituents worry that the job creation isn’t coming to their communities.  Well, one way to fix that might be with a local HRO.   I’m not saying it’s the silver bullet what ails small-town Indiana, but it probably couldn’t hurt.  Apparently it’s helping other local communities.  And that’s where the battle should go next.



Don’t Expect Lawmakers to Pass an LGBT Rights Bill

by Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

I was recently asked why it appears to be so difficult for Indiana lawmakers to pass a bill that protects the LGBT community from discrimination and at the same time, religious freedom.  My half joking response to that person was that they were expecting the same body that can’t figure out Sunday alcohol sales to thread the needle of non-discrimination vs. religious freedom, good luck with that one.  All kidding aside, while a lot of people say the civil rights issue should not be that complicated, unfortunately it is and it has nothing to do with religious freedom.

First of all, for a number  of lawmakers, particularly those in rural areas, the LGBT rights issue is not a big deal.  I know it sounds harsh, but it’s true.   I’ve been speaking to a number of State Representatives and Senators from small towns and rural communities.  When they have their town hall meetings, the tops issues are roads, jobs and schools.  They might be lucky to get one question about the LGBT issue.  So we shouldn’t be shocked that they don’t get worked up over something that their constituents don’t.  Of course there is the irony that nearly 80% of the job creation in Indiana takes place in communities that protect LGBT rights, but that’s another column for another time.

Second there’s the politics of a tough vote.   This one isn’t as much complicated as it is a fact of life.  Let’s face it, a lot of politicians aren’t necessarily profiles in courage and they won’t take a tough vote unless someone drags them kicking and screaming to it.  There’s also the fact that we are about to enter primary season.  And either the lawmaker doesn’t want to get a primary challenger or to have the issue used against them by one of their primary opponents as they either run for re-election or seek a higher office.

Third, there’s what I call “the American Beauty” factor.  Look up the film and pay close attention to the reason why Kevin Spacey’s character is killed.  But if you don’t have time, let me spell this part out for you, some folks just don’t like the LGBT community.  Either it’s just a straight up dislike, borderline hatred or they have their own “unresolved” issues.  And this subject makes their lives more difficult because it either goes against their own personal prejudices or it’s just another thing that would have to make them come to terms with who they really are and for that crowd denial is a lot more than a river that runs through Cairo.

So when you throw in the above mentioned reasons, on top of the religious freedom and conscious arguments, it’s a lot of easier to grasp why the LGBT equality rights issue is swimming upstream at the Indiana General Assembly.  Personally, I support full protection for the LGBT community. I think it can be done while respecting religious rights.   But then again, I’m smarter and more enlightened that most people.  I also understand politics and with all these moving parts, unfortunately, the longer this goes on, the more I don’t think it will pass at the state level.  I’d go have a drink to lament this fact, but I’m writing this on Sunday and it’s illegal for the grocery store to sell me a bottle of alcohol.