The Journal Gazette
Sunday, August 12, 2018 1:00 am

Debate dates spur heated debate

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

A debate over debates has generated more debate.

Democratic congressional candidate Courtney Tritch said last week that Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, has not agreed to dates for public debates ahead of the Nov. 6 election. She said she wants him to confirm multiple dates by Aug. 15.

Banks told The Journal Gazette that he wants to debate Tritch and will “nail down the dates as soon as we can.”

His campaign also sent a statement to radio station WBOI. It said, in part, “Unlike Ms. Tritch, Congressman Banks has a family and a job and that job is serving the people of northeast Indiana. As we've said before, there will be plenty of opportunity to debate at the appropriate time.”

That prompted a lengthy written response from Tritch, a marketing consultant. She wrote that she was “outraged, offended and hurt” by the Banks campaign statement.

“I have encountered many men in my life who have thought that their jobs were more important than mine (and that they should be paid more than me). I have also encountered many men who look down on me because I don't have a husband or children,” she wrote.

“I just didn't realize we had elected one of those men to public office right here in northeast Indiana,” she wrote.

Asked to comment, Banks said in an email that Tritch “is twisting my spokesperson's comments yesterday to disparage my character. Our response was simple and clear: I have priorities other than campaign politics. Specifically, my job as representative for the Third District and my family.”

He added, “I will stay focused on my duty as congressman and look forward to debating Ms. Tritch on important policy issues closer to Election Day.”

Author featured at Chamber dinner

New York Times best-selling author J.D. Vance will headline the Indiana Chamber of Commerce's 29th Annual Awards Dinner on Nov. 13.

Vance wrote “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” a depiction of growing up in Appalachia and an analysis of the cultural and family trials that come with poverty, substance abuse and industrial decline. Released in 2016, the book provided timely perspective on the rise of political populism and the growing concerns of many Americans.

“It certainly resonated with different people for different reasons. ... For the folks who did come from similar backgrounds, a lot of things I've heard suggest there weren't a whole lot of stories out there about people like them. A lot of people picked up that book and said, 'This is my story. This is similar to what I have experienced,'” Vance states.

The success of the memoir put Vance on the national stage, and he has appeared on numerous news programs to discuss politics and public policy; he is a contributor on CNN.

More than 1,500 people are expected to attend the dinner in downtown Indianapolis. Four awards will be given that evening: Ogletree Deakins Business Leader of the Year, Government Leader of the Year, Dynamic Leader of the Year and Community of the Year.

Seating for the event is limited. Tables of 10 start at $1,650; individual tickets are $169 each. Either can be purchased at or by calling 800-842-6885.

Gearing up

Current and perhaps future political candidates went to campaign training camp last weekend.

Fourteen women attended the 3-day AVOW Women's Campaign Institute in Fort Wayne sponsored by Advancing Voices of Women. They received instructions on campaign law, fundraising, making speeches, recruiting a campaign team and door-to-door campaigning.

Participating were MaryClare Akers, executive director of the Drug and Alcohol Consortium of Allen County; Megan Butler, who oversees events and programs for Riverfront Fort Wayne; Michelle Chambers, owner of Signing Closers LLC; Stephanie Crandall, director of intergovernmental affairs for the city of Fort Wayne; Lindsay Hannah, director of development for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Fort Wayne; and Patricia Hays, chief executive officer of AWS Foundation.

Also attending were Carol Helton, city attorney for Fort Wayne; Martha Lemert, senior labor employment counsel for the law firm Burt Blee Dixon Sutton & Bloom; Paula McGee, formerly interim CEO of the Fort Wayne Urban League; Margaret Waters Milne, work experience coordinator for SCAN; Melissa Rinehart, president of Kaleidoscope Diversity Solutions; Crystal Vann Wallstrom, managing director of innovation for Electric Works; Denita Washington, executive director of Girlz Rock; and Kathy Zoucha, special education teacher for Fort Wayne Community Schools.

Four participants are candidates in this year's election, all of them Democrats: Zoucha is running in Indiana Senate District 15, Washington for Adams Township trustee, Rinehart for Perry Township trustee and Lemert in Indiana House District 52.

Other institute participants indicated they are considering running in coming years for seats on the Fort Wayne City Council and the Allen County Council.

Speakers at the institute included former Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke, former U.S. Rep. Jill Long, Purdue Fort Wayne political scientist Andy Downs and Patricia Russo, executive director of the non-partisan Women's Campaign School at Yale University.

I&M urged to seek renewable energy

Five members of the Fort Wayne City Council signed a letter Tuesday encouraging Indiana Michigan Power to incorporate more renewable sources in its future energy plans.

The letter, authored by Councilmen John Crawford, R-at large, and Geoff Paddock, D-5th, supports the “general principle” of renewable energy, Crawford said Tuesday.

Crawford said several constituents have spoken to council over the past two months in support of renewable resources. The letter is not legally binding.

In addition to Crawford and Paddock, Councilmen Paul Ensley, R-1st; Tom Freistroffer, R-at large; and Tom Didier, R-3rd; signed onto the letter Tuesday night. Others may sign on later. Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, was absent.

Journal Gazette writer Dave Gong contributed to this report.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at or Niki Kelly at An expanded Political Notebook can be found as a daily blog at

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