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The Journal Gazette

  • Matt Sullivan | The Journal Gazette: Democratic state Senate candidate Mark Townsend, left, holds a campaign sign Oct. 14, 1998, with former U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh at Fort Wayne International Airport.

Thursday, March 14, 2019 10:32 am

From 1998: Birch Bayh on the campaign trail

DAVID De CAMP | The Journal Gazette

This story was originally published Oct. 15, 1998:

When state Senate candidate Mark Townsend was a student years ago, he and a friend wanted then U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh's autograph for each member of their classes.

It turned out Bayh signed his name 63 times.

"By the time he was done, he was massaging his hands . . . and he turned around and said, `Boys, we've got to do something about these class sizes,''' Townsend said.

On Wednesday, Townsend, a Democrat vying for the District 19 seat in the Nov. 3 election, brought Bayh and a push for smaller classes together for a rally at Fort Wayne International Airport.

Bayh, a Democrat whose re-election bid was defeated by Dan Quayle in 1980, campaigned for Townsend during the candidate's afternoon and evening rallies that included stops in the Wells County town of Vera Cruz and later Marion.

Given the political climate created by the investigation of President Clinton, though, Bayh doubts he'd start a Senate career these days.

"I am so disgusted at what some of these people are saying and doing, I would not run myself,'' he said. "But somebody has to. You can't change something unless you get out and run.''

Bayh's son, Evan, a Democrat, is the state's former governor running for his father's old Senate seat against Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke, a Republican.

Birch Bayh, who campaigned during his day with Townsend's father Wayne, a former legislator, made his first election-related appearance this year on Mark Townsend's behalf.

Townsend pushed for smaller classes and full-time kindergarten. He said the state could pay for it with money from its surplus fund and still lessen local school districts' property tax levies.

Other Townsend issues: fair property tax overhaul, keeping Indiana farmers strong, and building economic development while using land wisely.

Townsend is running against incumbent David Ford, R-Hartford City, to represent a largely rural area that includes a tidbit of Allen County, and parts of Adams, Wells and Blackford counties.

Ford also is focusing on education and property tax overhaul, as well as improving crime victims' rights, eliminating the inheritance tax, and preserving farmland.

He said he supports all-day kindergarten, but only if it is an option to parents and students. It also should not be required for districts to get state funding.

"Generally speaking, I believe in parents having more choices'' involving education, he said. Ford, an attorney for Indiana Farm Bureau, also wants to at least reduce the property tax, which he calls unfair.

"I look forward to the day when we can repeal it all together.''