INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Democrats are trying to get their first statewide election win since 2012, and they see opportunity in the Indiana secretary of state race.
In November, Indiana will elect a new secretary of state, the official who oversees elections. Incumbent Holli Sullivan was defeated at the June GOP convention by Diego Morales.
Democrats say they feel confident about a win in the race amid polling numbers, increased fundraising and scrutiny Morales has faced.
At least one poll suggests a close race for Indiana secretary of state. A poll released earlier this month by Indy Politics and ARW Strategies shows Democrat Destiny Wells leading Morales by 4 percentage points, 36% to 32%, respectively. Libertarian Jeff Maurer is polling at 7%, and a quarter of voters are undecided.
Wells has focused her campaign on improving voter turnout.
“Just overwhelmingly working with county clerks to make sure that we are administering elections in a fair, free, secure and accessible way,” Wells said.
Maurer is calling for more post-election audits to boost voters’ confidence in elections.
“What’s being done now is a very limited review of our hardware and software,” Maurer said. “What I’m talking about is a complete risk-limiting audit, and it has to be an independent audit.”
Morales has also focused on election security. But his candidacy has faced criticism.
In a March op-ed, he called the 2020 presidential election results “questionable.”
State records show in 2009, he was fired from his job at the secretary of state’s office. Two years later, he was rehired but then resigned after he was given a performance improvement plan.
Recently, our partners at The Indianapolis Star spoke with two women accusing Morales of sexual misconduct.
Morales declined our request for an interview Wednesday but referred us to a statement he provided last month after the allegations were first published by political writer Abdul-Hakim Shabazz.
“As a husband and father, I understand sexual harassment is deplorable and can leave devastating scars,” Morales said in his statement. “The claims being made against me are false and I unequivocally deny all of them.”
Earlier this month, Indiana GOP chairman Kyle Hupfer confirmed he was made aware of one of the sexual misconduct allegations over the summer.
“A member of the Republican Party asked to meet with me nearly two months after our state convention,” Hupfer said in a statement. “At the meeting, she shared with me elements of a story that have now been made public. It wasn’t then, nor is it now, my story to share.”
“There is a bevy of things that he has done that has detracted attention from the actual policymaking and agenda,” Wells said Wednesday.
State data shows from July through September, Wells out-fundraised Morales by about $17,000.
Laura Wilson, associate professor of political science at the University of Indianapolis, said that’s significant.
“She’s a Democratic candidate, and there are no Democrats currently holding statewide executive offices,” Wilson said. “But in addition to that, money matters because it’s something you can use to gain support.”
State campaign finance reports show as of late September, Morales has about $180,000 more cash on hand compared to Wells.
The secretary of state would have to work with the Indiana legislature to make changes to election law. The legislature currently holds a Republican supermajority.