Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said in a Northwest Indiana Times interview earlier this month that censuring President Trump, as the late Sen. Richard Lugar urged against President Clinton in his 1998-99 impeachment, would serve the same practical purpose as impeachment while dividing the country far less. "If this is all going to end up, ultimately, just partisan politics — the Democrats in the House are going to vote to impeach and the Republicans in the Senate are going to vote to acquit — then why are we going through this exercise?” McDermott asked.
When a primary rival, State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, assailed his position, it prompted the mayor to change course. “Would I vote against impeachment because I think censure is the right answer? And it’s no,” McDermott said. That prompted Reardon to say, "I’m glad that the mayor of Hammond has finally realized that in a democracy we have a responsibility to question and hold our leaders accountable for their actions for the good of the nation."
Other candidates in the 1st Congressional District Democratic field took hard lines, which are reflective of predominant politics there. “As a member of Congress, I’m not going to sit idly by as the president tramples on our democratic institutions,” said Valparaiso attorney Jim Harper. Gary businesswoman Sabrina Haake added, "I can’t be strong enough in support of getting this jackass out of office. To me, if trying to sell our military aid of $350 million for a personal favor and a political favor is not impeachable, then nothing is.”
The Republican 5th Congressional District, which hasn't elected a Democrat since Jim Jontz won the seat a generation ago, requires Democrats to take a more nuanced approach.
Former Democratic legislator and 2016 lieutenant governor nominee Christina Hale didn’t explicitly say whether she would have stood with her Democratic colleagues had she been serving in the House rather than running for it.
“National security is of primary importance to all Americans,” Hale said in a statement to Howey Politics Indiana. “My dad, a longtime prosecuting attorney, taught me long ago that no one is above the law, not even our president, and that transparency in government is essential to well-functioning democracy. Americans across our country are seriously concerned, and we need to see this impeachment process through in the Senate, and give these articles a fair and open hearing. That said, we must not allow Congress to be distracted from working on the everyday issues affecting people here in Indiana, like making health care more affordable, lowering the cost of prescription drugs and focusing on education and employment.”
It seems that Hale favors impeachment as all but three current House Democrats did, but her spokesman, Andy Bilyk, would not say whether Hale would have cast a vote for impeachment. He repeatedly referred to the statement.
Her opponent for the Democratic nomination, 2018 5th District nominee Dee Thornton, was more straightforward about impeachment. “It’s about protecting the Constitution,” said Thornton, a former Xerox executive. “It should not be a partisan vote. It’s a vote on principle.”
Rev. Micah Beckwith, who is seeking the 5th District GOP nomination, said impeachment will turn out to be a political boost for Trump and other Republicans. “It’s going to catapult (Trump) to an overwhelming victory in 2020.”
Brian Howey is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. HPI Washington correspondent Mark Schoeff Jr., contributed to this column. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol. The opinions are the writer's.