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Local politics

Highlights of the Republican state convention: Today
10 a.m. – General session at Grand Wayne Center for selection of nominees for statewide offices, adoption of platform, remarks by Gov. Mike Pence
8 p.m. – Kenny Loggins concert at Embassy Theatre
Reince Priebus, Republican Party national chairman, speaks on opening night of the GOP’s state convention at Grand Wayne Center.

RNC chief heaps praise on state party

Photos by Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Former presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee weaves jokes and jabs at Democrats as he addresses state delegates Friday.
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
More than 1,600 convention delegates gather Friday night to listen to comments from former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas.

The Grand Wayne Center sound system played “I’m alright / don’t nobody worry ’bout me” as the Indiana Republican Party’s state convention concluded its opening session Friday evening.

The Hoosier GOP apparently is all right, what with supermajorities in the Indiana House and Senate, six of seven statewide officeholders, including the governor, and eight of 11 federal lawmakers.

National Republican Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called it “a serious state party.”

Republicans are strong in other Midwestern states, Priebus observed, “but what you have here is something extraordinarily special.”

He spoke long before the audience heard the “I’m Alright” recording from 1980 by Kenny Loggins, who will perform tonight at a concert for the 1,600-plus convention delegates. But Priebus made it clear the national GOP has something to be worried about.

Democrats are better at constantly organizing, registering voters and raising money with no regard to their future candidates and messages, he said.

“They’re hitting us like this all over the country,” Priebus said. “Being obsessed with the mechanics of this party is the difference between winning and losing.

“We’ve got to figure out how to be that party that understands we have to be a year-round party,” he said, adding that the GOP is starting to do just that.

“We’re the party of equality, freedom and opportunity. It’s the other side that has a shameful history, not us,” Priebus said, applause drowning out his last words.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, host of a talk show on Fox News, weaved jokes and jabs at Democrats into his folksy storytelling.

Referring to President Barack Obama’s trade of five Taliban prisoners for a U.S. soldier, Huckabee said he would trade five Democrats – Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, presidential prospect Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder – for a U.S. Marine arrested in Mexico.

“We’d come out way ahead on that one,” he said.

He accused Obama and Democrats of punishing hardworking people with higher taxes, discouraging fossil-fuel production and restricting the freedoms and rights of Americans.

“What I worry about in this country, as China becomes more free, we’re becoming more government-controlled, and folks, that ought to scare the daylights out of us, make us rise up and make sure that (Republicans) don’t lose any more elections for a while,” Huckabee said.

The convention will continue today with the adoption of a party platform and the nomination of candidates for secretary of state, auditor and treasurer.

Only the treasurer nomination is contested. All three candidates – Richmond financial adviser Don Bates, state treasurer aide Kelly Mitchell of Indianapolis and Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold – made stump speeches Friday.

As each concluded, backers among the delegates waved posters bearing the candidate’s name. Not many signs went up for any of the three candidates, and the distribution of support appeared relatively equal.

Marion County has the most votes with as many as 165 delegates, followed by Allen County with 99, Hamilton County with 97, Lake County with 79 and St. Joseph County with 69.

Delegates also will nominate Secretary of State Connie Lawson of Danville and Auditor Suzanne Crouch of Evansville. Both are appointed incumbents.

At their convention last week in Indianapolis, state Democrats nominated Beth White of Indianapolis for secretary of state, Mike Claytor of Carmel for auditor and Mike Boland of Fishers for treasurer.

Other Republican speakers Friday included U.S. Sen. Dan Coats and his wife, Marsha, a GOP national committee member; Allen County Republican Chairman Steve Shine; local convention organizer Bill Bean; and state Republican Chairman Tim Berry, a Fort Wayne native.

Earlier in the day, the convention resolutions committee rejected an attempt to eliminate from the party platform a plank stating Republicans “believe that strong families, based on marriage between a man and a woman, are the foundation of society.”