Pence's immigration quandary—Buttigieg's Fox News town hall—Holcomb & Merritt's photo op—Tom Hanks in Indy

What's happening—and what's next—at the intersection of Indiana politics and business?

By Adam Wren and design by Kris Davidson

DRIVING THE WEEK: Tom Hanks and the “Today” show come to Indianapolis. President Donald Trump elevates Pete Buttigieg. Buttigieg heads to New Hampshire Friday and Saturday. Indiana’s politicos descend on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500. Also driving the week? Quite literally, these drivers. Scroll down for more on all fronts.

HOMETOWN OR THE HUSTINGS?— “South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg out of town for nearly half the days in recent months,” by Jeff Parrott in the South Bend Tribune: “From Austin, Texas, to West Hollywood, Calif., South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential bid has taken him out of town nearly half of the days in recent months, according to his daily calendar, news stories and information online.

“Of the 120 days from Feb. 1 through May 31, Buttigieg was away or plans to be away from the South Bend area at least 55 days, or 45 percent of the calendar days.

Looking at only weekdays, he’s been gone or plans to be out of town for 39 of 86 days — also about 45 percent.”


“Common Council President Tim Scott said he did not see a problem with how the city has functioned in Buttigieg’s absence.”

“He said he and council members Karen White and John Voorde met with Buttigieg about two months ago, a routine meeting over a variety of issues, and the four discussed the concept of Buttigieg appointing a deputy mayor during his campaign, as he did with controller Mark Neal during his Afghanistan deployment in 2014. Buttigieg told the council members he didn’t think that was necessary, Scott said.”

IN THE FOX DEN: Buttigieg earned a standing ovation—along with what amounted to a soft biographical spot—in a controversial Fox News town hall appearance Sunday evening. Paid subscribers can read my analysis of the town hall here.

Good morning, and welcome to IMPORTANTVILLE. It’s the week of the Indy 500.

POINT OF PERSONAL PRIVILEGE: IMPORTANTVILLE ranked among the top 10 Substack posts nationally last night. No other Indiana publication is better matched to the moment.

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WHERE’S VEEP? He heads to Jacksonville, Fl., to deliver remarks at an America First Policies event on the USMCA. He lunches with the president on Tuesday.

WHERE’S PETE? Buttigieg will head back to New Hampshire this next Friday and Saturday, with events in Londonderry, Exeter and Keene.

GIVING MAYOR PETE OXYGEN? TRUMP TWEETS: “Hard to believe that @FoxNews is wasting airtime on Mayor Pete, as Chris Wallace likes to call him. Fox is moving more and more to the losing (wrong) side in covering the Dems. They got dumped from the Democrats boring debates, and they just want in. They forgot the people.....”


  • Sen. Mike Braun pivots on tariffs in an interview with Dan Spehler.

  • Rep. Susan Brooks acknowledges that it’s a tough time to be in Washington, D.C.

  • Dozens of faculty and students walked out of Vice President Mike Pence’s commencement address at Taylor University on Saturday in upland. BUT: he received a standing ovation from the hundreds that remained.


  • Former Sen. Joe Donnelly’s campaign manager Peter Hansom joins the United Way of Central Indiana as vice president of marketing.

  • Indiana Office of Management and Budget Director Micah Vincent will be replaced by Cris Johnston, the governor’s deputy chief of staff, according to the Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office.


On Friday, I wrote about the buddy comedy that is Gov. Eric Holcomb’s and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s working relationship, and how that makes things somewhat complicated for Holcomb’s fellow Republican, State Sen. Jim Merritt, who is challenging Hogsett.

Here’s the photo Merritt tweeted Saturday at the 500 Festival Breakfast at the Brickyard:

WHAT’S NEXT: The mayor and governor are hanging out with Tom Hanks this week. On Wednesday, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the “TODAY” show (Al Roker and Savannah Guthrie) will be in town, as will actor Tom Hanks. It’s all part of an initiative called Hidden Heroes, “a campaign designed to raise awareness and resources to improve the lives of the 5.5 million loved ones caring for the ill and wounded veterans across the United States,” per Fox 59. “On May 23 at 7 a.m., a special one-hour edition of NBC News’ TODAY will be co-anchored by Hanks and Savannah Guthrie live from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and will celebrate military caregivers nationwide.”

An insider tidbit? Visit Indy asked the mayor to provide a note to Savannah, Al, and Tom (because we’re on a first name basis with them, apparently). Hogsett’s note was composed on a typewriter—a tribute to Hanks, who is fascinated with the old technology.


Anita Kumar and Daniel Lippman, Politico: “Immigration activists stew over Pence’s role on immigration plan

As a member of Congress more than a decade ago, Mike Pence unveiled an immigration proposal offering a chance for legal status to people who had come to the country illegally.

Hardline conservative activists were furious.

Tom Tancredo, then a firebrand Republican congressman from Colorado, called the vice president’s proposal both “amnesty” and “an atrocity”: A political action committee he co-founded set up a running “Pence Watch” online. The populist pundit Pat Buchanan likened Pence’s call for “a principled consensus on immigration reform” to a betrayal from “The Godfather” and said it could mean “the end of Mike Pence as a rising star of the GOP.”

Pence’s 2006 plan, which he insisted did not amount to amnesty for immigrants in the country illegally, died quietly and has been mostly forgotten in Washington.

But not by those hawkish advocates, who suspect that Pence is quietly seeking to have a moderating influence over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, including what the president introduced as his new “pro-immigrant” plan on Thursday.

Although Pence largely echoes Trump’s talking points and has given few public hints that he sees things any differently, his critics have noticed with growing alarm that he is playing a greater behind-the-scenes role in Trump’s immigration policy than has been previously understood, a fact confirmed by people close to Pence.

Rachana Pradhan and Alice Miranda Ollstein, Politico: How Mike Pence took over HHS

Sweeping new protections for religious health care workers and an overhaul of family planning programs to effectively cut out Planned Parenthood represent something unusual in the Trump administration: a clear spotting of the fingerprints of Vice President Mike Pence.

From topics ranging from trade to the president’s scorched-earth attacks against the Mueller investigation, Pence has been the loyal foot soldier while often appearing uncomfortable amid the administration’s biggest fights.

Liz Goodwin, Boston Globe: “Mayor Pete and the Order of the Kong: How Buttigieg’s Harvard pals helped spur his rise in politics

A tired-looking Senator Ted Kennedy was nearing the end of a question-and-answer session with students at Harvard’s Institute of Politics when a young man in a white button-down shirt approached the microphone. It was January 2003, President George W. Bush was enjoying high approval ratings, and an ambitious college junior with his own political aspirations wanted to know whether Democrats would ever find their way out of the wilderness.

“Thank you, sir. My name’s Peter. I’m a student at the college,” said a 21-year-old Pete Buttigieg in a surprising baritone. “It feels like a lot of your colleagues have adopted a posture of being for whatever the Republicans are for, only less: The tax cuts just a smaller one, and the war, just maybe not quite as quick as the Republican war.”

As the Lion of the Senate appeared to snap to attention, Buttigieg asked whether the rest of the Democratic Party would ever “sort out what it thinks the meaning of opposition is.”

More than 15 years later, that skinny college junior with a bone to pick with the Democratic Party is putting forward his own vision for a liberal opposition as a presidential candidate — one that is deeply informed by his time in Cambridge. When Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., first broke through as a candidate during a CNN town hall in March, he pondered the future of American democracy and questioned the merits of the fixation among religious conservatives with sexuality in paragraph-length answers that his friends from his Harvard years recognized immediately as quintessential, undergraduate Pete.

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading.

Trump learns how to pronounce 'Buttigieg'—Pence & Holcomb's commencement addresses—VP returning to IN

The "they say 'edge-edge'" edition.

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By Adam Wren and design by Kris Davidson

Driving the week in IMPORTANTVILLE: Sen. Richard Lugar’s funeral on Wednesday, and he will lie in state in the Statehouse rotunda beginning tomorrow; President Donald Trump’s growing awareness of Buttigieg as a candidate; With the primary and state legislative session behind him, when will State Sen. Jim Merritt present his big, bold ideas for the city of Indianapolis? And Vice President Mike Pence back home again to deliver Taylor University’s commencement address later this week.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is now officially on President Donald Trump’s radar. On Friday, in an interview with Politico, he likened Buttigieg to Alfred E. Neuman, the gap-toothed character from MAD magazine. At a rally last Wednesday, he sounded out the candidate’s last name, a tacit acknowledgement that the mayor had edged his way into the top tier of 2020 Democratic candidates. And Buttigieg finally began to build out his staff in early states such as Iowa and New Hampshire with a handful of hires.

So, what’s next for the candidate? For starters, more press coverage: At least one more profile for a major magazine—Rolling Stone—is in the works. The Indianapolis Star plans to ramp up their Buttigieg coverage, Executive Editor Ronnie Ramos wrote yesterday. And the South Bend Tribune pulled back the veil on the flood of open records requests pouring into the mayor’s office (The winner? Nick Ballas with the RNC, at 12 requests filed). We’ll likely see the fruits of that research in stories in the coming days.

But there are two big hurdles Buttigieg will face in the coming weeks: unrolling policy and prepping for the first Democratic debate, both of which are slated to happen in June. As for the debate, Buttigieg has proven to win over—not lose—supporters in these types of performative events. But there is also the policy hurdle. Earlier this month, he told reporters he was “being a perfectionist about" unrolling his policies. When he does so, he’ll likely catch flack as various constituencies—and fellow Democrats— begin to pin him down. As I wrote in April:

If there is one thing going in his favor, it’s that he seems to have avoided the trap of being pigeonholed. He is making a virtue of not forcing people to choose between progressive and moderate, between wanting to attack the global threat of climate change and wanting to preserve a strong national defense. And yet at some point, people will have to make choices.

IMPORTANTVILLE TAKE: The pigeonholing is coming.

WHAT’S NEXT: Who is Buttigieg’s base? So far, it consists of South Bend voters, Hollywood fundraisers, Obama donors, and cable news talkers. Whether Buttigieg can win over voters in New Hampshire and Iowa will be a key test for the mayor in the coming months. This week, he gets a new challenger—Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, the only Democrat to win a Trump state in 2016. Also: Which Hoosier pols will attend the Indy 500 this year?

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Good Monday morning, and welcome to IMPORTANTVILLE. Happy birthday to Amy Grappone, Sen. Todd Young’s communications director.

WHERE’S VEEP: He has lunch with the president, welcomes the prime minister of Hungary, and takes part in a White House Iftar.

CRAZY SENTENCE OF THE WEEK, from IBJ’s Lindsey Erdody: “Buttigieg has even received more money [$278,182] from Indiana residents than Trump, although the Republican is not trailing by much. Trump has reported receiving $257,798 from Indiana residents.”


Vice President Mike Pence, warming up for his controversial Taylor University address later this week, told Liberty University grads this past weekend:

  • “Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs. As you go about your daily life, just be ready because you’re going to be asked not just to tolerate things that violate your faith, you’re going to be asked to endorse them. You’re going to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb delivered the Anderson University commencement address Saturday. His parting advice to grads:

  • Stay in Indiana, pursue your passion, fall in love, and embrace the opportunities that follow any temporary setback. Do those four things and you’ll be well on your way to solving the meaning and mystery of a joyful life itself.


  • Buttigieg addressed his long process of coming out at the Human Rights Campaign Gala in Las Vegas Saturday.

  • Politico looks at how mayors are reacting to Buttigieg’s bid. “The irony is that the South Bend mayor is being taken seriously, and the New York mayor’s not,” Doug Herman, a Democratic strategist, told Politico.

  • Supporters of Sen. Cory Booker are upset with the attention Buttigieg is receiving. “He’s at a disadvantage anytime he’s not treated on the same playing level as all the other candidates,” said South Carolina state Rep. John King, who has endorsed Booker. “There should be a campaign where people start to question the process when there’s not fairness — and especially within the media.”


Josh Pacewicz, “The Washington Post: There’s a problem with Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s approach to revitalizing South Bend.”

Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s entry into the Democratic primary has put the Rust Belt in the news, especially as he’s polling third in the crucial states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Buttigieg’s campaign has appealed to voters for many reasons. But many see his work as mayor during the economic revitalization of South Bend, Ind., as the main selling point — or even a solution to the Rust Belt’s decline and the antidote to Trump’s appeal in the region. In his campaign announcement, Buttigieg used this theme when he said, “South Bend is back. ... We’ve changed our trajectory and shown a path forward for communities like ours.”

But can effective municipal leaders really save struggling U.S. cities?

Jeremy W. Peters, The New York Times: Pete Buttigieg Confronts Race and Identity in Speech to Gay Group

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., on Saturday directly confronted one of his biggest vulnerabilities as a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination: running as a white man who has led a life of relative privilege at a time when many in his party are eager for a woman or a minority candidate to become their next leader.

Speaking at a fund-raiser for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender causes, Mr. Buttigieg drew on his own experiences as a gay man in a predominantly straight society. But he also rejected the idea that “there are equivalencies” in the forms of discrimination experienced by different minority groups and individuals.

“I may be part of the L.G.B.T.Q. community. But being a gay man doesn’t even tell me what it’s like to be a trans woman of color in that same community, let alone an undocumented mother of four or a disabled veteran or a displaced autoworker,” he said at the event, hosted by the Human Rights Campaign.

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading. Have a good week.

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