Former Pence aide seeks Indiana election office that fired him | National policy

By TOM DAVIES – Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A former aide to Mike Pence seeking to oust the Republican Indiana secretary of state is embracing Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen while pushing back on criticism about twice quitting jobs in this office after being written off for poor job performance.

Diego Morales’ labor history has emerged as an issue in his campaign against Secretary of State Holli Sullivan. It’s happening largely out of public view as they seek support from the roughly 1,800 delegates who will choose Indiana’s Chief Electoral Officer nominee at the state’s Republican convention. June 18.

Sullivan’s campaign has been texting delegates in recent weeks with links to documents critical of Morales’ professional performance in 2009 and 2011. The messages end: “Our elections are too important to be entrusted to someone who is not ready for work and has a troubled work history in the exact position he is seeking to fill.

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The Secretary of State oversees statewide election policies, which are directed by county officials.

Morales, 43, rejects disciplinary action as “office politics” and has worked to connect with delegates through frequent appearances at local Republican events.

Sullivan, 49, previously worked in auto plant management and served as state representative for Evansville for seven years before being appointed Secretary of State by Republican Governor Eric Holcomb in March 2021 when his predecessor retired.

Sullivan is touting his work to improve the cybersecurity of county election offices and add small printers to thousands of touchscreen electronic voting machines across the state to create a paper trail of each ballot cast.

Morales, meanwhile, called the 2020 election a “scam” while pointing out baseless claims Trump and his allies have made about other states. The former president hasn’t endorsed anyone in the race, but Morales is trying to lure Trump supporters.

He is pushing election restrictions that include halving the state’s 28-day early voting period, requiring new voters to prove their U.S. citizenship when registering and creating an ‘elections task force’ that would investigate. on the “schemes”.

As for the disciplinary action he has faced as a junior member of the secretary of state’s office, he says he faces a “smear campaign”.

“It was a leadership disagreement, disagreements of opinions, probably office politics, office rivalry,” said Morales, who immigrated to the United States from Guatemala as a teenager with his parents and his sisters, in an interview. “Obviously government bureaucracy at its best.”

Disciplinary measures were first reported by the Associated Press during Morales’ unsuccessful 2018 run for Congress.

Records obtained under Indiana’s public records law showed he was fired in 2009 after eight months in Republican Todd Rokita’s office due to “incomplete” work, a ” inefficient execution” and “lack of concentration”. He refused to accept a work improvement plan and tendered his resignation when he was fired, according to a dismissal letter.

Two years later, Morales left a different position in office after refusing to sign a job improvement plan under then-Secretary of State Charlie White, a Republican who was himself stripped of his duties. functions in 2012. following a conviction for electoral fraud. Morales worked just over a month when he was disciplined for “poor workmanship” and failing to complete his job, records show.

Morales returned to state government as a staff aide to the governor when Pence took office in 2013 and remained until Pence left to become Trump’s vice president in 2017. Some members of the Pence Governor’s office staff have championed Morales’ work and supported his candidacy.

Rokita, now the state’s attorney general, wrote a message distributed by the Morales campaign saying, “As far as I’m concerned, Diego left my office on good terms, and I consider him a longtime friend. “

Sullivan, a former vice chairman of the state’s Republican Party, said “qualifications and background” are important to the office and that public records do not show anyone leaving on good terms.

“I think the delegates deserve transparency and because this was a public office and he was a state employee, they have these public records to review,” Sullivan said.

Other candidates for the Republican nomination are Knox County Clerk David Shelton and Paul Hager, a former Libertarian Party candidate from Bloomington. Sullivan and Morales have each raised around $500,000 for their campaigns through the end of March, far ahead of the others.

Destiny Scott Wells, a lawyer and Army Reserve intelligence officer, is the only Democrat seeking the nomination at the June 18 party convention. Libertarian candidate Jeff Maurer will also be on the November ballot.

Sullivan’s candidacy is complicated by his ties to Holcomb, who, despite his landslide re-election victory in 2020, has faces conservative criticism on actions ranging from the COVID-19 restrictions he imposed on his vetoed a bill banning transgender women from participating in girls’ school sports. Many conservative activists won convention delegate seats in the May primary, even though far-right challengers to current Republican lawmakers largely failed.

The focus on Morales’ work history could sway delegates who aren’t already strong supporters of either candidate, said Steve Shine, who has been the Republican chairman of Allen County, which includes Fort Wayne, for 29 years.

“It also has the potential to backfire on those who thought it would help because there are people who are totally put off by the negativism in any race,” said Shine, who did not endorse any candidate.

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