New secretary of state says he won’t be distracted by probe

New Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White will spend his first weeks as the state's top elections officer facing an ongoing investigation of voter fraud allegations.

White was formally sworn into office during a Statehouse ceremony Thursday — two months after easily winning election despite claims from Democrats that he improperly voted in the May primary using his ex-wife's home as his address.

White didn't address the investigation during his remarks at the ceremony, but told reporters afterward that he wouldn't allow it to distract him from his duties.

"I think that issue is going to work itself out. We just need to let the investigation go as it goes," he said. "I need to concentrate on the job I was elected here to do and that's what I'm going to do."

White said he hadn't yet met with the special prosecutors who were appointed in October to review the allegations, but flatly said "I did not commit voter fraud."

"We're just waiting on them," White said. "We'll cooperate when it's time."

Special prosecutor John Dowd said Thursday he expected it would be a month to six weeks before his investigation was complete.

"We're working toward that direction," Dowd said. "We're just not far enough along to give any other information."

The state Democratic Party filed a court challenge last week to White's election, contending that the state's recount board improperly dismissed its argument that White was ineligible to run because of his improper voting.

No hearings had been scheduled as of Thursday on the court challenge.

White has blamed a busy schedule for his mistake in voting in May from his ex-wife's address rather than the condominium he bought in February. He resigned in September after 10 years on the Fishers Town Council, saying he had just learned that his condo was outside his council district in the northern suburb of Indianapolis.

Democrats argue that their candidate, Indianapolis architect Vop Osili, should be appointed to the office.

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said Thursday he had thought about what he would do if White was found ineligible for office, but declined to discuss what he called hypothetical situations.

"Let's just hope that these other questions are resolved swiftly," he said. "Everybody will be glad when they are."

White's term succeeding Republican Todd Rokita began Saturday. Thursday's inauguration ceremony attended by several hundred people included Republicans Treasurer Richard Mourdock and Auditor Tim Berry, who both won re-election to second four-year terms in November.

White, who was an attorney at an Indianapolis law firm and until recently the Hamilton County GOP chairman, said he didn't expect any troubles heading the office, which also regulates the state's securities industry and incorporates new business.

"At some point the campaign needs to end," he said. "I need to reach across the aisle and work with both sides."

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