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Could victory in a statewide race be in Dems’ destiny?

Jack Colwell


South Bend Tribune


Could it be Destiny?

Well, with a red wave forecast, Democrats don’t seem destined to win a statewide race this fall in Indiana. They haven’t won one in a decade. And they’ve been losing oodles of congressional and state legislative races as well.

But Mike Schmuhl, the state Democratic chair from South Bend, says they could pull some surprises and one of them could be a win by Destiny Wells, the Democratic nominee for secretary of state.

Could it be Destiny?

It depends, Schmuhl says, on whether enough voters will focus on the qualifications of Wells and of her Republican opponent, Diego Morales, and not just decide by party labels. He says Morales 'was fired twice' from secretary of state jobs, while Wells has experience as a counsel for Indianapolis and Marion County and as an assistant attorney general. She is also a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard, with deployment in Afghanistan.

The nominees were selected at their respective state conventions last weekend.

'Diego is a dangerous candidate,' Schmuhl says. 'Those are not just my words. They are words coming out of the Republican convention.'

It was a divisive GOP convention battle, with Morales defeating present Secretary of State Holli Sullivan, who had been appointed by Gov. Eric Holcomb. In selecting Morales, some of the delegates were hitting at the Republican governor for his mandates during the pandemic and his lack of support for some of the Trumpiest proposals in the legislature. Morales had accused the governor of 'abusing his powers' during the pandemic.

Delegates supporting Morales heard about his political baggage from termination of his employment in two prior Republican secretary of state administrations. But supporters cited his regular attendance at Lincoln Day Dinners around the state, his travels to all 92 counties during his campaign and his agreement with vote concerns of Donald Trump. He also was an aide to then-Gov. Mike Pence.

The Indianapolis Star, quoting from personnel file documents, found that Morales worked for then-Secretary of State Todd Rokita as a special assistant for just under eight months in 2009 before receiving the draft of a work improvement plan. The Star reported that Morales put in two weeks’ notice that he planned to leave and refused to sign the plan. About a week later, the newspaper found, he was terminated for 'incomplete event planning and management,' 'inefficient execution of assigned deliverables' and 'lack of focus on strategy and planning,' and the office also cited his 'lack of professionalism.'

In 2011, while in the office of then-Secretary of State Charlie White, Morales was presented with a work improvement plan within one month of starting work, the Star found, with reference to 'poor execution of required daily tasks' and 'incomplete event planning and management.' He again was found to have refused to sign the form and to have resigned a day later to pursue 'new experiences.'

Democrats plan to use his work experience in the office he seeks to head in contrasting that with the career of Wells.

Wells hammers at a theme that Indiana isn’t really a solid red state but 'a purple state with a turnout problem.'

She decries that Indiana is 46th in the nation in turnout of registered voters. Through the secretary of state’s role in elections, Wells says, she would seek to encourage increased voter turnout.

Morales has a different view in calling for cutting the days for early voting in half and placing more requirements for absentee voting.

Schmuhl concedes it will be a tough year for Democrats, as the midterm election traditionally is for the party of a newly elected president. He expresses confidence in his state ticket and grass-roots efforts statewide.

Democrats don’t seem destined to win a statewide race. But could there really be a surprise?

Could it be Destiny?

Jack Colwell is a columnist for The Tribune. Write to him in care of The Tribune or by email at


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