MUNSTER – A Democratic state representative is calling on Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence to review the makeup of the State Board of Education after a newspaper reported that a member serving as an independent on the board has a history of voting in Republican primaries and donating to GOP candidates.
The Times of Munster reported that according to Indiana campaign finance records, Marian University President Daniel Elsener has donated $10,575 to Republican candidates and business groups supporting Republicans since 2001 and cast a ballot in GOP primary elections nine out of 10 times since 1994. He voted in the 2000 Democratic primary.
State law allows only six of the 10 members on the governor-appointed State Board of Education to be from the same political party. The governor’s office has said Elsener is an independent member.
Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point, believes it’s a serious dereliction of duty by Pence.
It’s definitely something I think the governor needs to re-evaluate, VanDenburgh said. If they’re going in and declaring themselves Republican for the last 13 years, then that’s a Republican. It doesn’t count as an independent, and it surely isn’t a Democrat.
Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks said Elsener was appointed to the board as an independent by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2005 and continues to serve as such.
Tony Walker, a Democratic state education board member from Gary, believes partisanship limits should be abolished because any governor will appoint board members who agree with the governor’s education policy.
I do not believe the partisan affiliations play any role in our deliberations, Walker said. Quite frankly, there is no consensus within the two major parties on most education issues.
Elsener said in an email to the newspaper responding to questions about his party ties that he is an independent thinker who votes for candidates I believe would perform the best in the office.
During my adult life, I’ve supported Democrats and Republicans, with both my time and my money. I supported Evan Bayh, and I supported Mitch Daniels. But, ultimately, I believe that my decision in the voting booth is my business, Elsener said.
He did not respond to an email sent by The Associated Press and a message left for him.