The Journal Gazette
Sunday, March 15, 2020 1:00 am

Parties ponder plans for state conventions

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

The state Republican and Democratic parties are looking at contingency plans for upcoming state conventions should the coronavirus make mass gatherings impossible. 

The Indiana Republican State Convention is scheduled for June 19-20, and the Indiana Democratic State Convention is set for June 13. Thousands of delegates will choose nominees for attorney general and lieutenant governor.

Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana sounded the alarm Thursday, sending an email to supporters with the headline “Indiana GOP Elites Want to Silence the Grass Roots.”

It said Republican insiders were meeting secretly to possibly take away delegate votes if no convention can be held. Instead the Republican State Committee would choose nominees. 

“It is my hope that regardless of where this health concern stands in June, delegates will have the voice, through a vote, they always have had, and that a way for them to still vote will be made, be it in a convention setting or by other methods,” he said. 

Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer later sent an email to Republicans addressing Clark's allegations.

“I need to set the record straight,” he said.

Hupfer said the party – like other organizations with upcoming large events – needs to be prepared with contingencies. And he had a call with state committee members Thursday morning about options. 

“While there is much uncertainty as we start these discussions, there is consensus and clarity that our first priority is to proceed with the convention as planned,” Hupfer said. “In the event that is not an option, our second priority is to seek an option that includes input from our delegates as our general election nominees are selected. As we get closer to the convention we will ensure that we keep everyone well informed.”

The Indiana Democratic Party also released a statement.

“This is a rapidly developing situation, and we want to be as prepared as possible. Hoosier Democrats intend to hold the Party's state convention on June 13 as planned, but we are also developing contingencies in case an alternative event is necessary. Any contingency will ensure the participation of delegates in the election of national delegates and statewide candidates.”

Libertarians pick candidates

The Libertarian Party of Indiana has nominated candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, the U.S. House and the Indiana House.

Nominees for the Nov. 3 general election were selected at the party's state convention on March 7 in Indianapolis.

Libertarian candidates from northeast Indiana include Morgan Rigg in Indiana House District 52 in DeKalb, Allen and Steuben counties; Michael Rennaker in Indiana House District 82 in Noble, Allen, Whitley, Kosciusko and LaGrange counties; and Jason Eicholtz in Indiana House District 83 in Whitley and Allen counties.

Districts 52, 82 and 83 are represented, respectively, by Republican Reps. Ben Smaltz, Dave Abbott and Chris Judy.

The Libertarian gubernatorial nominee is Westfield resident Donald Rainwater, who has worked in software engineering and information technology management. Rainwater, who chairs the Libertarian Party of Hamilton County, ran for Westfield mayor in 2019.

The party's candidate for lieutenant governor is Plainfield resident William Henry, a public and community relations professional.

Libertarians nominated candidates in five of Indiana's nine U.S. House districts and in six of the 100 Indiana House Districts.

Women's campaign forum

The League of Women Voters of the Fort Wayne Area will sponsor “Encouraging Young Women to Run for Office” from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. March 28 at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, 2410 Fairfield Ave., Fort Wayne.

The program is being presented in cooperation with the museum and Girl Scouts of Northern Indiana-Michiana. Admission is free.

Attendees can view documents related to the women's suffrage movement in the United States. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which extended the vote to women.

Attendees also can visit with local women who have run for public office, including Fort Wayne City Clerk Lana Keesling, Allen County Commissioner Therese Brown, Fort Wayne City Council members Michelle Chambers and Sharon Tucker, Adams Township Trustee Denita Washington and Wayne Township Assessor Beverly Zuber.

Voter registration will be available at the program.

Too close for comfort?

Local health and government leaders Friday called a news conference to provide updates on community preparedness and response to COVID-19, which has been declared a global pandemic. The news conference was broadcast live on at least one local TV network.

Mayor Tom Henry was first at the mic, stressing that people should not panic but follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deb McMahan, Allen County's health commissioner, noted that the precautions people are being asked to take will be necessary for weeks. Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters was also among the speakers.

“Social distancing” is among the suggestions mentioned at the news conference and being widely promoted.

That means staying 6 feet apart from other individuals.

It was a bit ironic, then, that the more than dozen officials and leaders who stood in the background, not far from the podium to show support for the messages being shared, were almost elbow to elbow or less than 2 feet apart.

Lisa Green contributed to this report.

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

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