• Peter Blanchard

Battered GOP secretary of state candidate has Dems hoping for 1st statewide win in decade

October 14, 2022

Peter Blanchard

Indiana Business Journal


It’s less than four weeks from Election Day, and Diego Morales, the Republican candidate for Indiana secretary of state, has found himself mired in a series of controversies, all of which have Democrats believing they have a fighting chance at winning their first statewide office since 2012.

The list of accusations against Morales includes embellishing his military record, denying the results of the 2020 presidential election (then changing his stance), purchasing a campaign car with $44,000 in campaign contributions and, most recently, sexual misconduct.

Destiny Wells, the Democratic candidate from Morgan County, so far has avoided any major dustups in what is her first campaign for elected office, giving her party hope that she can become the first Democrat to win the position since Joe Hogsett, now the mayor of Indianapolis, claimed victory in 1990.

“There are several reasons to think this race could be competitive when we look at the polling, the division in the Republican Party at the convention, and the bad press one of the candidates has been getting,” said Andrew Downs, director emeritus of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics. “I think it is safe to predict the margin between the top two candidates will be narrower than in recent secretary of state elections.”

A recent snapshot shows a tightening race: An IndyPolitics poll of 600 likely voters conducted by Illinois-based ARW Strategies showed Wells leading the race with 36% of the vote, compared to 32% for Morales and 7% for Libertarian candidate Jeff Maurer. The remaining 25% of voters said they were undecided, and the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

But the poll’s sample was relatively small, and many voters don’t pay close attention to down-ballot races.

“Voters often have not known much about secretary of state candidates, and so each voter has voted for the candidate with the party label preferred by that voter,” Downs said. “This is why the secretary of state race has been used as a measure of party affiliation in the state.”

In the right scenario for Wells, Maurer could pull enough votes away from traditional Republican voters to give her a slight edge over Morales.

Maurer, a member of the Indiana Air National Guard, is campaigning on a pledge to conduct an independent audit of all 92 counties following each election.