By Russ McQuaid
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (August 13, 2014)-- In a non-race between two candidates who have yet to declare their intentions, Marion County’s leading political parties traded shots over whether one of the non-candidates violated federal law by working on a mayoral campaign that hasn't yet been launched.
Marion County Republican Chairman Kyle Walker has accused former U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett of violating the 1939 Hatch Act while he was in office.
“Joe Hogsett has been effectively running for mayor for two years, most of which he had been the U.S. Attorney at the time.”
Walker cited many conversations, alleged and confirmed, that Hogsett may have had with members of the Democratic party in July before he announced his resignation effective at the end of the month.
“Within 24 hours of Hogsett announcing he would resign as U.S. Attorney, a coordinated multi-pronged media blitz to draft him for mayor was initiated by several of his friends including a fully designed website and coordinated messaging from several high profile democrats,” charged Walker. “Are we supposed to believe that Hogsett hadn’t been involved in the planning and coordination of this activity while he was still the U.S. Attorney.”
Yes, said Marion County democrats.
“He didn’t call me,” said Joel Miller. “I’m the chairman of the party. I received a phone call from him the Saturday after his resignation was final so I would have no reason to believe that if he didn't call the chairman of the party that he was talking to anybody else about it.”
Republicans pointed to former U.S. Senator Evan Bayh’s briefing with reporters the day Hogsett announced his pending resignation as proof that the rumored candidate was already in touch with his political mentor to discuss his possible mayoral intentions.
“Are we supposed to believe that Hogsett didn't solicit Bayh’s support,” asked Walker, “but on the same day that Hogsett announced his resignation, Evan Bayh coincidentally showed up in Indianapolis to hold a press conference at which he expressed his support for a Hogsett candidacy for mayor?”
The Hatch Act prohibits certain federal office holders from being a candidate, making campaign speeches, organizing political meetings and engaging in political activity while on duty or in a government office.
“We’ve identified a dozen examples of questionable activity, all of which happened in a very condensed period of time,” said Walker who did not offer any evidence. “I think it would be highly unlikely that Joe Hogsett were to be able to conduct this type of activity based on innuendo and a wink and a nudge. Its clear to me there was a coordinated effort involved.”
In the race to be elected Indianapolis’ next mayor in November of 2015, incumbent Greg Ballard hasn’t announced whether he wants to be re-elected and Hogsett hasn’t said he wants the job.
“If I were in Greg Ballard’s shoes, I would probably be trying to distract from my record as well,” said Miller as he dismissed the GOP charges. “I think that this is nothing more than picking out an issue that’s probably not an issue at all.
“After reading this release, quite frankly, it looks like a back-of-the-napkin conversation in a barroom that made it to a camera.”