Sunday, February 14, 2010

Coats Is A Fish Out Of Water

When I first moved to Indianapolis to attend law school, Sen. Dan Coats was seeking re-election to the seat to which he had been appointed by Gov. Robert Orr against then-Secretary of State Joe Hogsett. Coats lambasted Hogsett for running for another office without serving out his full term as secretary of state. My strongest memory of that campaign was a TV spot Coats ran over and over again, which I've dubbed the "He's not one of us" spot. Looking straight into the camera, Coats warned Hoosiers, "My opponent has no wife, he has no children." In short, he doesn't share our Hoosier values Coats said. Although he didn't say it directly, the clear implication he was sending to voters was that you shouldn't vote for Hogsett because he might be gay. Coats' attacks on Hogsett worked. He won 57% of the vote at the same time Evan Bayh was handily re-elected to a second term as governor.

Six years later, Coats chickened out of a race against Evan Bayh in 1998. Coats had become the ultimate Washington insider. Prior to serving in the House of Representatives, Coats worked on the congressional staff of Dan Quayle, a politician to whom he owes his political career. When Quayle moved up to the Senate, Coats took his his old congressional seat in northeastern Indiana. When Quayle became Vice President with President George H.W. Bush, Gov. Orr appointed Coats to Quayle's senate seat at his urging. Many of Orr's staffers had urged him to appoint a young up-and-comer, Mitch Daniels, to the seat instead. Orr's desire to win an ambassadorship from the Bush administration may have given him an extra incentive to go with Quayle's choice.

After Coats left the Senate in 1998, he chose to stay in Washington. He later accepted an ambassadorship appointment to Germany from President Bush. Later, he took up the trade of so many former Members of Congress: he became a lobbyist. Hoosier Republicans have scarcely seen Coats since he retired from the Senate. By all accounts, he considered Washington his home and had planned to retire to a lovely home in North Carolina. Then came a Rasmussen poll showing Evan Bayh vulnerable for re-election and the timely intervention of Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) who leads the Senate Republican Campaign Committee to convince Coats that none of the Republican Party's current crop of candidates for that seat cut it and that he should return to Indiana to run for the seat. To the surprise of almost everyone, Coats jumped at the opportunity. We're told Coats quickly rented a home on the Indianapolis' northside to claim as a residence for voting purposes. Not to worry about the late date of rounding up enough signatures to get on the ballot, Coats will simply rely on paid workers to collect his signatures absent any grassroots support for his candidacy.

Seeing Coats greet Marion County GOP precinct committeepersons and volunteer workers at this weekend's slating convention, I sensed that Coats believes he's our savior coming to the rescue to ensure us a victory in November over Sen. Evan Bayh. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many of the younger folks remember little about him other than he had a very bad comb-over, which he has wisely lost. I sense real resentment towards Coats from many of the party faithful that he has the audacity to think that he can waltz into the state on the eve of the filing deadline for the May primary when other candidates have been out on the hustings for the better part of the past year seeking support for their candidacies. Beyond that, Coats has to be living in an imaginary world if he doesn't appreciate the resentment average Hoosiers have towards Washington insiders these days. How can you say you're part of the solution when you've been lobbying for Bank of America, Yemen and Venezuelan interests? He even had a lobbying contract with the Indian government to arrange a speech for that country's prime minister before a joint session of Congress. Gee, what does an ambassador do? Coats can argue all he wants over the characterization of his lobbying work, but in the end he cannot escape his ultimate Washington insider status.

All of Coats' potential primary opponents resent his entry into the race at this late date. Clearly, Gov. Daniels is not happy with his entry. The only people clamoring for him to run are all Washington insiders. Despite the fact that his entry has gone over like a fart in church, Coats shows no signs of retreating. And why should he? He sees four underfunded primary opponents with little name recognition. Because of Indiana's alphabetized system of placing candidates on the ballot, Coats knows his name will appear near the top in a long list of candidates (assuming Richard Behney fails to secure enough signatures). Turnout in the primary election may be very low. That gives one of the other candidates who is short on funds but has built a strong base of grassroots supporters to emerge victorious. If Coats wins the nomination, we're stuck with a race between two Washington insiders, leaving voters little in the way of choices.

Sorry, Dan, but you are not one of us. If only someone could convince him that he would be doing the party a big favor if he simply returned to his retirement home in North Carolina.


artfuggins said...

I am in the rare position of agreeing with you. As a strong Democrat, I think the senate race is one spot on the ballot that I will leave blank this fall. I assure that I will leave it blank in the primary also. Bayh is so out of touch with Democrats that I can no longer vote for him and the GOP gives me no acceptable alternative.

Blog Admin said...

So some guy from Texas is calling the shots on the election of OUR Senate representative to the US Congress?

Mr. Cornyn cannot honestly take a stand saying the people know best, and then micromanage our elections like this.

Also, as a young person myself, I can assure not many of us know who Dan Coats is. I never heard of him until a couple weeks ago.

That being said, I don't know how much the young people vote will matter. It's a non-POTUS election year, and turn out could be quite low.

Also, Gary, did you read the piece over at Frugal Hoosiers over Evan Bayh's residency?

Got any thoughts?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Indy Student, Can you tell me where Lugar's Indianapolis residence is located? I'm pretty sure he hasn't owned a home here in decades.

FederalistActivist said...

I saw Coats make a pass through the lobby and hall at the Marion GOP event and while some folks were busy with the slating, he didn't seem to have the masses flocking to him. He also doesn't seem to look at all the same as when he last ran for office in 1992, if you know what I mean.

I think you should not underestimate the value of a strong grassroots movement, the amount of energy present this year among a lot of people who don't ordinarily participate in Republican primaries, and the way Hostettler is connecting with people as he did in 6 winning House races. Constitutional and limited government is a winning message this year and he has been preaching it since he first ran for office in 1994.

I know said...

Lugar owns a farm somewhere south of Indianapolis. The new I 69 I believe runs through part of it I have heard.

Blog Admin said...

Honestly, Gary, I don't know, but I also know Senators don't have to live in a specific city (neither do those in the House of Reps).

Is it a common practice among Congress, or just Indiana's reps?

Fake edit: Lugar's bio mentions him owning a 604 acre farm in Marion County. Probably that address.

Vox Populi said...

I don't think he'll make the ballot, honestly. And I think Hostettler will beat him in the primary if he does make it.

Jerry Titus said...

No Richard or Charlene Lugar come up in a search of property tax rolls via Beacon. 51 results for Lugar in all of Indiana.

A number of LUGAR FAMILY LIMITED PRTNP properties and Lugar Stock Farm Inc. Most of these properties are in the 5000-6000 block of Mann Road, and two in Greenwood. (Lugar in name field, Indiana for state)

artfuggins said...

Lugar lives in the 30th and Kessler area and has for years.

dcrutch said...

I think you nailed it. A lot of the energy from outrage in the streets over the past few months- at the statehouse, in Indy, Bloomington, Logansport, Mishawaka, and across Indiana, with speakers, voters yelling, waving all kinds of home-made signs in all kinds of weather will be disipated- like the air leaving a popped balloon.

This is bigger than X party versus Y party.

The influence of lobbyists on government, verus the average taxpayer with one vote is a big part of the problem.

Dan Coats is a part of that problem.

Gary R. Welsh said...

The Lugar family owns farmland in Marion County. What I doubt is whether he has a regular home that he lives in here. He and his wife have lived in D.C. for decades. I used to work in the Market Tower where his senate office is located. He rarely was in town.

Vox Populi said...

Breaking news: Dan Coats announced that he's now renting a home in Indianapolis. I wonder if it's a month-to-month lease.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Does one of the Lugar children actually live in that house in Meridian-Kessler?