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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Keith Hanson, left, and Linda Garfield pose for a photo with Gov. Mike Pence on Tuesday at the Allen County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner.

Pence lauds GOP at Lincoln dinner

Gov. Mike Pence spoke to 600 Republicans for 25 minutes Tuesday night without mentioning the elephant in the room.

No, not the GOP’s animal symbol. The fact that a good number of the people who gathered at Ceruti’s Summit Park are trying to beat one another in next Tuesday’s primary election in heavily Republican Allen County.

As keynote speaker at the local GOP’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner, Pence heaped credit on Republican dominance of state government for Indiana’s falling unemployment rate, reductions in personal and corporate income taxes, improved student test scores and nearly $2 billion in state budget reserves.

He said the state has made “such extraordinary progress” and attracted jobs and national attention “because Republican leadership has made the difference in the state of Indiana over the last 10 years. Indiana is the state that works because Republican ideals work.”

The first-term governor and former congressman later said Indiana has fought “the efforts of expansive and paternalistic government” at the federal level. Democrats control the U.S. Senate and the White House.

“Freedom is on the march in Indiana because freedom-loving Republicans have been taking a stand, doing the work,” he said.

It wasn’t until after Pence’s speech that the subject of contested primary races came up.

“I know we have a lot of primaries in the room,” said Indiana GOP Chairman Tim Berry, a Fort Wayne native. “But we must all remember that we will be successful in November when we come together as one party following these primary elections to provide greater leadership, greater opportunities for families, for children, and greater, stronger communities as a result of our Republican leadership.”

Then came a parade of introductions by the primary-election candidates. Darren Vogt wasted no time reminding the audience he is in a contested race for the state Senate District 15 nomination.

“I’m the only candidate who was endorsed by both (news)papers after they took an extensive look at us in interviews,” said Vogt, who is running for the open seat against Liz Brown, Ken Fries and Jeff Snyder.

When identifying himself as an Indiana House District 84 candidate, Michael Barranda thanked incumbent Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, for his service and wished “good health and good spirits” to Morris, his family and supporters.

Contested primaries are “what makes us Republicans,” Barranda said. “If we weren’t trying every year to try to figure out who is the best person on the ballot every year, that would probably make us Democrats.”

When it was his turn to speak, Morris countered: “One thing is for certain, we can’t believe everything in the newspaper, and when mailers have been hitting your mailboxes, many things are not factual. So I’d love to hang out afterwards and meet the voters and discuss the issues with you. Thank you.”

It was not clear whether Morris might have been referring to Barranda’s comments about him in an election preview story published by The Journal Gazette or to the endorsement of Barranda by the newspaper’s editorial board. Or neither.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and others praised the legislative career of Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne. Wyss does not seek re-election in District 15, a seat he has held since 1985.

Long singled out Wyss’ work on homeland security legislation.

“I’ve been very proud to represent this community,” Wyss said. “I’ve been very proud to be a Republican.”

Also attending the Lincoln Day Dinner were Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson and state Auditor Suzanne Crouch. They seek nominations at the GOP state convention, which will be in Fort Wayne on June 6 and 7.