2011 in Review: Indiana State Politics 

click to enlarge Rupert Boneham, shown here on - 2011 election night, will run for - governor in 2012 for the Indiana - Libertarian Party.
  • Rupert Boneham, shown here on 2011 election night, will run forgovernor in 2012 for the IndianaLibertarian Party.
  • Rebecca Townsend

Daniels ducks GOP dance; Rupert enters the 2012 fray

In May, Gov. Mitch Daniels spurned his suitors and snubbed the opportunity to make a run for the nation's highest office. Perhaps it was a hard decision, but now Daniels is probably relieved not to have to associate with the current circus as his grand old party colleagues unleash the desperate effort to garner the Republican nomination for president. Their counterparts within the Indiana General Assembly and the state's regulatory network, however, probably have enough cooked up to keep him busy until his term in complete.

Meanwhile, beloved local personality Rupert Boneham, an advocate for disadvantaged youth and a star from the reality TV show "Survivor," entered the 2012 governor's race as a Libertarian. Republicans currently jockeying for position include Congressman Mike Pence and former Hamilton County Councilman Jim Wallace. Democrats squaring off for the party nod include former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg and landscaping contractor Thomas Lenfert.

The Indiana Democratic Party has also spent much of the year sending out missives nearly every day aimed at undercutting support for U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, the Republican who, as Indiana's longest-serving member of Congress, was first elected to the Senate in 1976. If the Dems can help Mr. Tea Party Richard Mourdock unseat Lugar in May's primary, their chances of stealing the seat increase.

The rancor of the attacks has faded in recent days, however, as the state Democratic party congratulated Lugar for voting to pass a temporary extension of the payroll tax cut. The love did not extend to Pence and his Republican counterparts in the U.S. House for blocking the tax-cut extension. The wonders of Washington did pull through at the last minute, however, and on Dec. 23 the House agreed to the extension.

click to enlarge A sign saying Love + Commitment = Marriage held at an Equality Rally at the Statehouse in March 2011.
  • A sign held at an Equality Rally at the Statehouse in March 2011.
  • Mark Lee

Legislators gone wild

Rep. Phil Hinkle might support a constitutional ban against gay marriage, but apparently Craigslist paid hook-ups with 18-year-old dudes are perfectly acceptable in his book.

In August, the prominent 64-year-old conservative lawmaker — "an in-shape married professional ... (who loves) getting and staying naked," according to an email he wrote to the young man — answered a Craigslist ad posted by Kameryn Gibson and offered him $80 "for services rendered and if real satisfied, a healthy tip."

Things allegedly fell apart after Gibson discovered who Hinkle was. Gibson alleges he attempted to leave the downtown Marriott hotel room, but Hinkle stopped him. At that point, Gibson called his sister, who threatened to go to the police and the media. Hinkle called the incident a shakedown, claiming Gibson stole his BlackBerry, an iPad and $100. Gibson and his sister allege Hinkle gave the electronic devices and cash to them to keep the incident quiet.

Hinkle denies he's gay, but couldn't say why he set up the attempted tryst in the first place. As with every politician who has been caught with his pants down, Hinkle told reporters he was seeking "professional help" to understand why he did what he did — namely answer a homosexual casual encounters ad seeking a "suga daddy," send multiple emails to the ad's teenage author, pick him up and take him to a hotel room, and allegedly expose himself.

Hinkle has refused calls for him to resign, but won't seek reelection in 2012.

In February, 70 members of the Indiana House of Representatives — including Hinkle — voted to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage. The state senate approved the same measure the following month. The ban will come before the two houses again in 2013, and if it passes a second time, will go to Hoosier voters.

A few months later, the closet became too claustrophobic for yet another lawmaker.

Former Indiana State Rep. Brian Hasler, D-Evansville, who thought he had made a $160 deal for sex with a male prostitute, actually had landed a date with Sgt. Jon Daggy of IMPD's vice unit. Instead of escorting Hasler upstairs to a hotel room at the Omni, Daggy escorted him to jail.

Perhaps Hinkle and Hasler can console each other. Too bad the state's so hell bent on undermining gay marriage: Hinkle-Hasler has a nice ring to it.

click to enlarge Embattled Secretary of State Charlie White may have to turn his seat over to Vop Osili, the Democrat who challenged him in the last election.

The Fights of Charlie White

Indiana's top election official was charged with multiple counts of voter fraud in March, but instead of resigning, Secretary of State Charlie White came out swinging. And over the next nine months, White's family, his predecessor Todd Rokita, former Sen. Evan Bayh and a host of others were all pulled into the melee.

White, who defeated Democrat Vop Osili in the 2010 general election, was charged with seven felonies, including voter fraud and theft. Prosecutors allege that while White served on the Fishers Town Council, he was living outside his district in a condo he purchased with his then-fiancĀ“e, now wife, Michelle Quigley-White. White claims he was living within his district — in his ex-wife's home — at the time.

White is battling on several fronts — besides the criminal charges in Hamilton County, Democrats filed a complaint with the state election board, claiming he wasn't eligible for the 2010 election. After the bipartisan board sided with White, Democrats filed suit in Marion County. Marion Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg ruled last Wednesday that White was not legally registered to vote at the time he filed his candidacy and therefore was ineligible to be on the ballot. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller appealed the decision on behalf of the recount commission. The Indiana Supreme Court is expected to weigh in soon.

White has also battled his own party, including Daniels, who suggested White step aside leading up to his January 2012 criminal trial, and Rokita, whom White criticized as a self-promoter.

Special prosecutors John Dowd and Dan Sigler sought similar voter fraud charges against Quigley-White, but White leveled similar accusations of his own, against Sigler and other prominent public figures, including former Sen. Evan Bayh and his wife, Susan. The respective county prosecutors declined to file charges or appoint their own special prosecutor.

White's mother threatened to file suit against Hamilton County, saying she was verbally abused by Sigler and his son during White's grand jury hearing.

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