Mask discontent in Indiana could snarl Governor Holcomb’s reelection

AP FILE - In this Thursday, April 30, 2020 file photo, Gov. Eric Holcomb wears a mask in Kokomo, Ind.

Gov. Eric Holcomb’s statewide mask mandate and six months of other coronavirus restrictions has stirred discontent among conservatives, complicating his front-runner campaign against underfunded Democratic challenger Woody Myers.

Posted: Sep 22, 2020 4:56 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s Republican governor has consistently touted face masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus and prominently wears one in his reelection ads, even as President Donald Trump resists their use.

Gov. Eric Holcomb’s statewide mask mandate and six months of other coronavirus restrictions has stirred discontent among conservatives, complicating his front-runner campaign against underfunded Democratic challenger Woody Myers.

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Face Mask Mandate

Longtime reliable Republican voters such as Renee Willis complain Holcomb’s coronavirus orders have been “overbearing.”

She partially blames the governor for the loss of her daughter’s job as a manager at a Greenfield restaurant and intends to vote for Libertarian candidate Donald Rainwater in an act of “civic outrage.”

“People have lost jobs, businesses are being forced to shut down .... we haven’t been able to go to church or see elderly family members, they’re being forced to wear masks,” said Willis, 57, of New Palestine, just east of Indianapolis. “Our constitutional rights have been infringed upon, and we’re sick of it.”

Holcomb has largely lifted the state’s travel and business restrictions since May while keeping in place limits on crowd sizes for restaurants, bars and public events as the state health department has recorded more than 3,500 deaths with confirmed or probable COVID-19 infections.

Most visible, however, is the statewide mask mandate that has drawn much public ire even though Holcomb dropped any possible criminal penalties for violators before it took effect July 27 in the face of objections from some law enforcement officials and conservative legislators.

The current mask order is set to expire Saturday, and Holcomb is expected to discuss any extension during his weekly coronavirus briefing Wednesday.

He vigorously defended mask wearing last week as helping keep COVID-19 death and hospitalization rates far below what they were during the worst of the outbreak in April and May.

“Here’s the deal, the virus hasn’t changed. It is still uber infectious, it is still ravaging different parts of the country,” Holcomb said. “The more that we do the things that work, the better off we’ll be and we’ll continue to see folks go back to work.”

Republican state Sen. Jim Tomes, whose district covers Evansville and rural areas west of the city, said many people he has talked with feel “they’ve done their fair share” to fight the coronavirus and are going to vent their frustration with the governor at the ballot box.

“There are a lot of folks that just want to go back to living like Americans again,” said Tomes, who spoke during a Statehouse protest of the mask order in early August.

Those disgruntled voters are unlikely to support Myers, the Democratic candidate, as he called for a statewide mask order weeks before Holcomb issued one and believes it should include possible criminal penalties. Myers, a physician and former state health commissioner, has said Holcomb “stalled for months, caving to the anti-science conservatives.”

That has provided an opening for Rainwater that Libertarian candidates typically don’t see.

The Rainwater campaign hasn’t been able to keep up with requests for yard signs and has been raising enough money to start running cable TV and radio ads next week, which Libertarians haven’t done for many years, campaign manager Sam Goldstein said.

Holcomb might still try to save face by adjusting the mask order or easing other restrictions, Goldstein said, but “that is not going to detract from the support we’re getting from his wing of politics.”

Holcomb, who became the Republican nominee four years ago when Trump picked then-Gov. Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate, has considerable backing and control of the state Republican Party. He has a substantial campaign bank account after raising more than $9 million through June, while Myers had less than $100,000 in the bank.

Holcomb will keep following the advice of medical experts while recognizing the frustration many people feel after so many months, said Kyle Hupfer, the governor’s campaign manager and the state Republican chairman.

“We’re certainly not living in a cave — we see and hear that,” Hupfer said. “But at the end of the day, true leadership is about doing what’s right and what’s best for all 7 million Hoosiers. At some point, when you are the governor of a state you have to put that first, well ahead of any political repercussions.”

Holcomb has held together the support of Republican leaders, with only one elected official — state Rep. Jim Lucas of Seymour — publicly announcing support for Rainwater.

Conservative activist Monica Boyer said she senses many of the frustrations with Holcomb that existed when longtime U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar lost the 2012 Republican primary to a tea party-backed challenger. Boyer said she’s been a Republican her whole life but decided to back Rainwater like many around her northern Indiana hometown of Warsaw over issues such Holcomb ordering churches closed during the first several weeks of the pandemic.

“He is ignoring his base, Mike Pence’s base, (of) social conservatives,” Boyer said. “And actually, he’s doing more than ignoring us. He’s rolling over us with the bus and re-rolling over us.”

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 147582

Reported Deaths: 3937
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion24410780
Lake12911350
St. Joseph8651154
Elkhart8281130
Allen7756221
Hamilton5872113
Vanderburgh547750
Tippecanoe346414
Monroe316238
Hendricks3116130
Johnson2947127
Porter288948
Clark280857
Delaware277174
Vigo245534
Madison224587
Cass220120
LaPorte208853
Warrick185362
Floyd170865
Kosciusko169221
Howard155366
Bartholomew137557
Dubois133423
Marshall129826
Henry120728
Boone117748
Grant116839
Wayne114923
Hancock112844
Noble110033
Jackson106412
Morgan90840
Dearborn89528
Daviess82732
Gibson8229
Clinton80116
Shelby76929
Lawrence76732
LaGrange76114
Harrison72924
Putnam69415
Knox68610
DeKalb67411
Posey6695
Steuben5798
Miami5655
Montgomery55722
Fayette55615
White55615
Jasper5264
Greene50537
Scott50313
Decatur49339
Adams4555
Clay4266
Whitley4246
Ripley4138
Sullivan40612
Wells4045
Orange38124
Starke3787
Wabash3769
Spencer3656
Huntington3645
Franklin35925
Jennings35813
Washington3452
Randolph3318
Jefferson3275
Fulton3232
Pike31512
Carroll30513
Perry28214
Jay2756
Fountain2733
Tipton26123
Parke2152
Newton20511
Vermillion2031
Owen1991
Rush1984
Martin1930
Blackford1843
Crawford1401
Pulaski1401
Brown1283
Ohio1167
Benton1060
Union1010
Switzerland840
Warren721
Unassigned0233

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 181787

Reported Deaths: 5067
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin30590635
Cuyahoga19212671
Hamilton15890338
Montgomery9883184
Lucas8058370
Butler7856122
Summit6406260
Warren393360
Stark3605178
Mahoning3567283
Marion332149
Pickaway294646
Delaware275927
Lorain262389
Fairfield254156
Licking241065
Wood240181
Clark231654
Clermont225936
Trumbull2174134
Greene210840
Columbiana207887
Allen195873
Miami191056
Lake184757
Medina175542
Portage153067
Mercer143327
Ross130533
Wayne125968
Richland125724
Tuscarawas117822
Athens11452
Erie111453
Darke108850
Madison101314
Hancock97520
Auglaize92716
Lawrence88524
Putnam86127
Shelby85014
Geauga81950
Muskingum8174
Scioto7709
Belmont76827
Union7203
Ashtabula71348
Huron6909
Sandusky69022
Seneca57614
Preble57417
Ottawa55930
Holmes53710
Fulton4726
Henry44217
Jefferson4384
Defiance43713
Clinton42013
Jackson4197
Fayette4188
Crawford4088
Logan3923
Champaign3783
Highland3714
Ashland3705
Brown3583
Knox35215
Perry35011
Washington32423
Morrow3222
Williams3124
Hardin30913
Coshocton28612
Pike2780
Wyandot27813
Gallia27413
Guernsey2688
Van Wert2153
Meigs20512
Adams1936
Hocking1899
Carroll1887
Paulding1791
Monroe14118
Noble1120
Vinton853
Harrison763
Morgan690
Unassigned00
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