Daniels takes high road
Republican gubernatorial candidate Mitch Daniels said he has been to so many Lincoln Day dinners recently (39 and counting) that when he and his wife, Cheri, finally had a night free to go out to dinner, instead of ordering ribs, he recited The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
That’s how it’s going for the first-time candidate and former Bush White House budget director: He’s working hard, traveling to each county at least twice, rallying the troops, and he hasn’t lost his sense of humor.
Daniels told several good stories at the Lincoln Day Dinner Monday night at Old Capitol United Methodist Church in Corydon and took the high road in his remarks about his campaign and his vision for Indiana. The only prediction he ventured about the national presidential race is that, considering who President Bush is running against, Democrat U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, in a ‘dangerous and difficult time,’ Bush will be re-elected in November.
Daniels did not address the current military situation in Iraq or the Bush-Cheney Administration’s problems with the bipartisan commission that’s investigating White House preparedness for al Qaeda terrorism prior to 9/11, or the massive federal budget deficit.
He cut his comments short to accommodate those in the audience of about 230 who wanted to get home to watch the NCAA men’s basketball championship game, won by UConn in a yawner over Georgia Tech.
Daniels acknowledged the presence of Pvt. Michael Davis, son of Keith and Lori Davis and a North Harrison High School graduate, who will be heading soon to duty in Afghanistan.
Daniels has spent much of his professional life in government, serving U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, President Ronald Reagan and Bush, but he’s never run for office before. He said when he decided to run for governor (he has two opponents in the GOP primary), his motivation was to make Indiana a great state in which every young person who wants a future here and wants to build a work and family life here will have sufficient opportunities to do that, especially those with the fewest breaks in life.
His message as he travels the state in his big, heavily autographed camper is that he wants every person and every community to feel important and be a part of Indiana. ‘Indiana can’t be a great state or succeed if some pieces are left behind,’ he said.
Daniels said the election in November ‘is just a means to an end, and the party is not an end in itself. It is just a vehicle. Election day is not the goal line or the finish line. It is the starting line. Everything we do from now until November is not about patronage or politics or holding power. It’s about the opportunity we have of earning the chance to lead a comeback for this great state that deserves better, for everybody ‘ those who vote for us, those who vote against us, even those who don’t take part. That’s why we’re gathered here tonight.’
He said honest people can differ. He said he wants to keep everything simple. He decried the loss of jobs, the lost income, the exodus of the best and brightest minds, and the state government that’s broke.
‘Sixteen years (of Democrat control of the Statehouse) is long enough,’ he said. ‘It’s time for a change. Keep it simple, stupid.’
He said he wants to elevate politics in this state and ‘raise our aim. I don’t want Indiana to be better, I want Indiana to be great.’
Master of ceremonies Harrison Circuit Court Judge H. Lloyd (Tad) Whitis introduced past officeholders, current officeholders and local candidates.
Indiana Auditor Connie Nass, state treasurer Tim Berry, U.S. Senate candidate Marvin Scott, and Ninth District Congressional candidate Mike Sodrel of New Albany were all present.
Aaron Atz introduced Sodrel and then Daniels with harsh attacks on their Democrat opponents, Congressman Baron Hill and Gov. Joe Kernan.
Harrison County and Ninth District Republican Chair Larry Shickles and vice county chair Edith Davis presented Chairman’s Awards to Wilfred (Cousin Willie) Sieg and Fred Kellum for their wisdom, support and encouragement. Shickles also introduced former county chairs Kermit Rothrock, Jim Shireman, Joe Shireman and Karen Engleman.
Tom Powers showed a campaign video emphasizing President Bush’s leadership following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, plus Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent appearance in Jeffersonville in support of Sodrel.
Daniels turns 55 today, so everyone at the dinner sang ‘Happy birthday’ to him.
Daniels said he likes to have young people present for all of his campaign events, to encourage them to get interested in government and politics. About 30 were present Monday night, and several took part in the program. Elizabeth Davis sang the National Anthem, and Ty Rothrock led the Pledge.
Sodrel passed out copies of the U.S. Constitution to all the youngsters and encouraged them to learn to read well and use the personal computers they were born with ‘ their brains. He touched upon separation of church and state, the NAFTA jobs crisis, Chinese-made goods flooding our stores, and keeping America a great manufacturing nation. He said if he’s elected to Congress, he will wake up every morning trying to think of ways to export American products and create jobs here.