Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White’s descriptions of his complicated personal life may have been more than some voters bargained for as the state’s top elections official fought for his political future before the Indiana Recount Commission last week.
But if there’s a silver lining for White, who faces voter fraud allegations that could cost him his job and his freedom, it could be that he presented himself as a family man — something that political observers say resonates with Hoosier voters.
The White case has become a rare unloading of all things deeply personal in a state where the family life of a politician — from Gov. Mitch Daniels’ divorce and remarriage to the same woman to Rep. Dan Burton’s child born out of wedlock — gets little scrutiny.
And with that unloading comes a picture of a man dedicated to his family, warts and all, which matters to Hoosiers, said Brian Vargus, political science professor at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.
“Most of them tend to be family-oriented people who put their families on their postcards,” Vargus said. “They pretty well position themselves as family men.”
The recount panel must decide whether White committed voter fraud by using his ex-wife’s address to register to vote. White also faces a raft of criminal charges stemming from the allegations he purposefully hid where he was living on his voter registration so he could maintain a seat on the Fishers Town Council.
White told the recount panel last week that he lived out of his car for the better part of a year while he was campaigning, sleeping occasionally at his ex-wife’s house while his then-fiancée was living in a condo he had just purchased.
White said staying at his ex-wife’s home gave him more time with his son, William, and also allowed him to respect fiancée Michelle Quigley-White’s request that they not live together until they were married, White told members of the Indiana Recount Commission.
White said he effectively had no home during a one-year stretch from May 2009 to May 2010.
For voters, the unorthodox family story may have blotted out some of the more obvious questions of where White was registered to vote, Vargus said. Most Hoosiers aren’t used to that kind of personal detail about their politicians, he noted.