Two Republican incumbents and a Democratic challenger offer voters the best choices in legislative contests.
Incumbent State Reps. Kathy Heuer and Phyllis Pond in Districts 83 and 85, respectively, serve their constituents well, while Democrat Lafayette Lee Jordan has the experience and temperament to restore respect in a district that includes northeast Indiana’s largest public university and community college.
Heuer, a Columbia City real estate broker, watched and learned in the first year of her two-year term and emerged as a thoughtful and influential representative in her second year. A member of the House Education Committee, she wisely convened representatives from the eight school corporations in her district to serve as counsel on education measures before the General Assembly.
Their feedback on the effects of proposed legislation prompted her to oppose a bill she initially supported, requiring every student to complete an online course before graduation.
To me, not letting bad legislation proceed is as important as getting a bill passed, she said.
A member of the House Education Committee and the interim Select Commission on Education, Heuer said testimony before the latter has revealed troubling concerns about the Indiana Department of Education – late or conflicting information offered by the agency charged with implementing a sweeping agenda of school-related laws over the past two years.
Heuer said she believes there will be a slowdown on education legislation, as well as a second look at laws that are already showing unintended consequences, including the requirement that public schools hold on to surplus buildings for four years in the event that a charter school wants to locate there.
A member of the Whitley County Economic Development Corp., Heuer sponsored a venture capital bill to raise the tax abatement cap from $500,000 to $1 million. She’s more cautious about a move to repeal the personal property tax for Indiana businesses, citing research on the estimated revenue loss.
She worked with Democrat John Day on a bill to provide a tax credit for low-income families with children enrolled in early-learning programs – one that Heuer said she will continue to push in the next session.
Democrat John Good is a strong challenger, with a background in retail management. A Fort Wayne resident, he is a senior field representative with Lab Corp., a medical diagnostic testing company.
He opposed the right-to-work legislation Heuer supported and is critical of the influence the American Legislative Exchange Council has had in putting forth model bills carried by GOP lawmakers.
Good also opposes school vouchers.
The public school money we pay in needs to go to public schools, he said.
District 83 was redrawn this year to cover a more compact area of Whitley, Noble and Allen counties, including Aboite Township and the southwest corner of Wayne Township in Allen County.
In District 84, Republican incumbent Bob Morris is facing his first re-election challenge since he drew ridicule by refusing to support a resolution honoring the Girl Scouts. He accused the radicalized organization of promoting abortion and homosexuality.
Morris’ uninformed diatribe was characteristic of his approach on many issues – reactive and ill-considered. The approach has rendered his service meaningless, given that even Republican caucus leaders joined in mocking him and distancing themselves from him.
Morris’ campaign strategy seems to be not to seek the office but to hide from it: He has avoided candidate forums and did not respond to requests for interviews by phone, mail and email. He did not submit answers to a written questionnaire.
Fortunately, Morris has a well-qualified challenger in Lafayette Lee Jordan, who retired as operations center manager at NIPSCO after a 37-year career there. He briefly ran a small business and is active in community groups, including youth sports.
Jordan said he was angered by Morris’ outburst over the Girl Scouts.
Enough is enough. We’ve taken common sense out of government, he said. Our politicians have been bought out – they are thinking of who gave them the most money, not who they represent.
Jordan has particularly strong views on education. He said he supported the voucher bill and school choice options, but he criticized the attack on teachers and suggested that investment in quality early-learning programs is the best way for the state to save money.
He also supports tougher regulation of the state’s child care voucher program – an Indianapolis couple are under indictment, accused of misappropriating millions in taxpayer funds through a chain of faith-based child care centers.
Libertarian James Hanson also is a candidate in District 84, which includes all but the southwest and southeast corners of St. Joseph Township in Allen County.
The heavily Republican 85th District, which now covers most of northeastern Allen County, has been represented ably by Republican Phyllis Pond for the past 34 years.
She admits she’s not a show horse when it comes to sponsoring legislation, but her record is solid in responding to constituent needs.
Pond points to a bill she approved this year to exempt aircraft equipment installers from sales and use taxes. The legislation she authored opens Fort Wayne International Airport and the state’s other large airports to companies that upgrade private aircraft.
She also has sponsored a number of bills supported by local judges dealing with mediation and alternative dispute resolution.
One bill allowed the county to add a $10 fee to marriage license applications to establish a fund for alternative dispute resolution services – easing the strain on the court system and saving tax dollars in the long run.
Pond, a New Haven resident, is part of a diminishing group of lawmakers who understand that less legislation often is more, particularly when it comes to social issues.
I think we should stay as far away from those issues as possible, she said. I look at it from a woman’s point of view. The state should first deal with the economic issues.
A retired teacher for East Allen County Schools, she faces a challenge from another teacher, Democrat Evan Smith.
He ran a vigorous campaign against Morris two years ago, but redistricting placed him in District 85 and his enthusiasm seems to have waned. He said the General Assembly’s emphasis should be on jobs but also is critical of many of the changes in public education.
Smith, who lives in Fort Wayne, said he believes the incumbent has lost touch with the district. But Pond’s roots in the district are deep, and constituents know she can be depended on to respond – maybe not with a new law but with help in finding the right state or local official to address the problem.
Leo-Cedarville resident Audrey Queckboerner is the Constitution Party candidate for the seat. She advocates cutting the size and scope of state government.
Coming Thursday: Indiana House districts 79, 82