Friday, June 24, 2005

Howey Explores GOP Rift With Evangelical Christians: Reports on Miller's Self-Dealing

State House political reporter Brian Howey took a closer look in this week’s edition of the Howey Political Report at the developing rift in the Indiana Republican Party between moderates led by Governor Mitch Daniels and conservative, Christian fundamentalists like House Speaker Brian Bosma, Micah Clark and Eric Miller. As an example of the party's division, Howey focused on Clark’s angry reaction to Governor Daniel’s EEO Policy of non-discrimination towards state employees on the basis of sexual orientation and identity as we have reported at length here at Advance Indiana. “His comment to the Indianapolis Star-- ‘I don’t believe in the big tent. I don’t believe you get to be that big by offending a large portion of your base'—exposed a fissure within the Republican Party,” reported Howey. Howey observed, “It is a party where the evangelical Christian right can turn out between 25 and 32 percent of a primary vote for people such as John R. Price in the 1988 U.S. Senate race or Eric Miller in the 2004 governor’s race.” “That leaves at least two-thirds of the Republican Party in the moderate column,” Howey commented.

Howey opines that modern Indiana Republicans have focused on: “keep government out of our private lives; of efficient, limited government; of low taxes.” Clark, who heads the non-profit American Family Association of Indiana , is the first Indiana Republican to openly advocate against the “big tent” that Ronald Reagan first talked about more than three decades ago according to Howey. Howey says, “It is further evidence that the band of Hoosier Republicanism is growing wider, stretching far, far to the right.” Howey continues, “But since the evangelical right took over the Indiana House leadership with the ascension of Brian Bosma and State Representative Eric Turner, Republicans are a conflicted party even as they control the executive and legislative branches of government,” The story cites Bosma’s former chief of staff, Don Blinzinger, as attributing the sharp move to the right in the House leadership when Bosma and Turner replaced moderates Paul Mannweiler and John Keeler. Bosma hired an Iowa campaign operative, Steve Grubbs, who devised gay-bashing campaign tactics that helped elect State Representatives Bill Davis, Billy Bright, Bruce Borders and Troy Woodruff in 2004 to give Republicans their slim majority. Blinzinger is quoted as saying, “What I saw him do beginning in 2000 and even more so in 2004 was to play off the national Republican politics.” That paved the way for the “evangelical right” to “push for the marriage amendment,” Howey said. Blinzinger predicted that “an increased number of Republicans will have primary opponents”, and he “see[s] the Christian right becoming even more strident.”

State Representative Luke Messer, who is also the Indiana Republican Party’s executive director, insists that the party is still “committed to the big tent” according to the report. However, Messer says, “Most Hoosiers are opposed to gay marriage, but they believe there should be certain legal protections.” Messer, unfortunately, did not offer Howey any specifics on what those “certain legal protections” should be. Howey noted that other Republicans are fighting back against the takeover of the Indiana Republicans by the evangelical Republicans. He discussed the formation of a new group of moderate Republicans called “First Republicans,” which is being spear-headed by Indianapolis attorney Syd Steele, who ironically works for House Speaker Brian Bosma’s law firm. Close Daniel’s confident Bill Oesterle, who has spoken out publicly to Indiana Republicans about the need to be more tolerant and inclusive of the GLBT community says he’s not engaged in an “escalation” to the resistance Daniels is getting from Micah Clark and Eric Miller according to the report. Oesterle said, “My comments to our spring dinner were a fact. Republicans are going to be conscious of differing views. Micah Clark is operating at the fringes. Most people don’t believe in a party that is not inclusive.” Howey also quotes Advance Indiana editor Gary R. Welsh, who started Advance Indiana blog site in response to the hate and bigotry Christian fundamentalists like Miller and Clark have been directing at the GLBT community. “You can replace all the references to gays with blacks and women and see how all of them were tied to Christian [fundamentalist] beliefs,” Welsh said. “The Party of Lincoln was always on the right side of civil rights.”

Howey, who describes Governor Daniels as a moderate, aptly pointed out “[w]hat the Micah Clarks and Eric Millers don’t understand is that the more they beat up on Governor Daniels, the more friends he is likely to make in the middle, especially with the ‘late deciding women’ who detest intolerance.” Howey concluded, “Miller’s Advance America can deliver 2,000 people for rallies at the State House or pump out a burst of e-mails[,][b]ut they don’t win elections; they enforce litmus tests.” After Howey's report Clark stepped up his criticism of Daniels even more. Clark, whose reaction to Daniel's EEO Policy has been nothing short of hysteria, is now telling his followers that Daniel's "radical" policy is even opposed by Congressman Barney Frank, a gay Democrat from Massuchusets.

This week’s Howey Political Report also ran excerpts from Advance Indiana's previous reporting on how Eric Miller has enriched himself through blatant self-dealing while serving as executive director of Advance America. Judging by the internet traffic to Advance Indiana over the past 24 hours, it is generating a lot of interest. The Howey Political Report is subscribed to by state officeholders, legislators, lobbyists and political enthusiasts across the state of Indiana.

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