Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

May 12, 2014

BRIAN HOWEY: Marriage amendment and GOP intraparty retribution

Northeastern Indiana evangelicals strike at moderates

The headlines following the primary election upsets of state Reps. Rebecca Kubacki and Kathy Heuer were along the lines of “social conservatives strike back.”

The two northeastern Indiana Republicans voted to strike the second sentence of HJR-3 and then voted against the amendment itself. While it passed the House and Senate with large but diminished margins, the process was forced to restart and is now potentially up for the ballot in 2016.

The social conservative rebound wasn’t complete, as state Sen. John Waterman lost, state Rep. Casey Cox survived, and state Rep. Bob Morris had a very close call.

But one thing is certain: The family coalitions will be active recruiting candidates for the 2016 cycles and press Gov. Mike Pence to back the amendment for the year when he could seek re-election. Pence administration sources have indicated to me they view support for the marriage amendment to be eroding and that the emphasis on 2015 will be on the biennial budget.

Megan Robertson, the Republican who headed the Freedom Indiana advocacy group that fought the marriage amendment, made it clear that if the marriage amendment resurfaces, the organization will be “ready to fight again.”

The challenge for the family coalition is to counter the erosion of support in polls as well as to successfully target legislative incumbents beyond Elkhart, Kosciusko and Whitley counties. Kubacki and Heuer were two moderate Republicans representing some of the most socially conservative areas in the state.

Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute put several Republicans, state Reps. Kevin Mahan, Steve Braun and perhaps even Senate President David Long, on notice that primary or general election challengers may be in the offing.

“The vote occurred so late we didn’t have time to recruit,” Smith said Wednesday morning. The House vote occurred close to the February filing deadline. Smith had grumbled to reporters after the House excised the second sentence to HJR-3 that a number of Republicans had not kept their word. He enunciated that as the primary campaign fumes were clearing.

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