Who am I?
My name is Trevor Foughty. I’m currently the Associate Vice President of State Relations at Indiana University, but prior to this job I spent more than 13 years working in politics and government. Over that course of time, I worked in both the executive and legislative branches of state government; did political communications for then-Gov. Mitch Daniels; was the spokesman for the Indiana Republican Party; served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for then-Rep. Todd Young; and worked on or managed several campaigns in Indiana. In 2016, I managed Young’s victorious U.S. Senate campaign. I came to IU shortly after that race ended.
This database has been a hobby and a labor of love for me since 2010. Every politician (approximately 9,000 as of 2019), every election result (over 1,300 across more than 80 different years), every office holder and the length of their tenure has been compiled and manually entered by me. It’s been a long slow process, though it might have gone quicker if it wasn’t just a hobby (and if I weren’t typing out every line of code for both the front-end website and back-end database by hand).
Why did I build this website?
The short answer is that I love Indiana history and politics. The long answer is comes from my stint as the GOP spokesman in 2010. Then-Rep. Mike Pence was considering a gubernatorial run, and multiple reporters asked me when the last time a sitting member of the U.S. House ran for–and won–a gubernatorial race. Others would ask me if I knew which candidate held the record for the most votes in a particular race. Or they’d ask who had served the longest in this or that seat. I was usually able to find them an answer, but realized it would be nice to have a sort of Baseball Reference for Indiana politics.
In November 2010, after the election had ended, I decided I would build such a site. I used my post-election downtime to start compiling data and building the back-end of the site. It didn’t take long to realize I was in over my head. For five years, the database was only on my personal computer, slowly expanding with no way for others to access it. But the dream never died. I kept compiling data, checking it against new historical sources I’d come across, and building more and more into the back-end. Many reporters—especially Ed Feigenbaum, who deserves a shout-out for always geeking out about this stuff with me—knew I had this resource, and would periodically ask me to help find them answers to historical question.
Finally, in 2015, I decided I needed to stop adding new data and start building a way to access it. About a month after I launched the initial version, ready to start adding data again, my boss decided to run for the U.S. Senate and I was tapped to be his campaign manager. It would sit largely idle for a year-and-a-half, until I came to IU.
I’ve added a lot of new data over the past few years, and some new features. I also started writing regular articles about Indiana history, many based on the robust dataset I’ve collected. Those articles have become somewhat popular in political circles, and I owe Brian Howey a debt of gratitude for publishing most of them in his weekly Howey Politics Indiana newsletter. That’s given me a bigger platform to have my work published in newspapers across the state, and to write some essays for publication by the Indiana Historical Society, Indiana Humanities, and other organizations.
But this site started out as a database, and not a blog, so the articles have been tough to find at times. So in the summer of 2019, I rebuilt the entire thing from scratch. The tools are much easier to use, the articles much easier to find, there’s more of a focus on graphical representations of data, and I’m now prepared to add in lots of new types of data.
Who is the intended audience?
First and foremost, anyone who is even mildly interested in Indiana political history. In my own research, I’ve found that myth has often replaced reality in some of the popular historical narratives, stories, and facts people have heard about Indiana politics. I love to share original reporting that sets the record straight when I can, and often times the true story is even richer and more exciting than the myth.
But more specifically, it’s also been my hope that this website would be a primary research tool for the shrinking pool of Hoosier political journalists. I’ve come to know them–especially those based at the State House–as a hardworking group that has a curiosity about historical precedent, but they are often stretched too thin to track down answers. I firmly believe that the shrinking size of the media isn’t just bad for democracy, it’s bad for our historical understanding about our own state. My favorite resource when writing articles is local newspapers, because they tended to include a lot of details and color you can’t find elsewhere. Hopefully, this resource helps broaden what they are able to include in stories, in order to preserve that aspect of media coverage.
A note about election results data
In the 1850’s, Indiana’s Secretary of State began to routinely certify election results for state and federal races. Any data in this database from the 1850’s on are Secretary of State certified numbers. I think this is important, because it is the official record. This is the only place on the internet that you can find those official numbers from before 2000, and I currently have most races back to at least the 1880’s. The gubernatorial races in the database from before the 1850’s are from the great work for Dorothy Riker to compile election results from official sources and newspapers for the 1816-1851 period of Indiana’s first constitution.