The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, June 03, 2020 1:00 am

Incumbents leading rivals for legislature

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Three incumbents were leading late Tuesday night in Allen County Statehouse races with thousands more mail-in votes to be counted today.

One of those veterans – Rep. Dan Leonard – was just a few hundred votes ahead of opponent John Stoffel in the House District 50 Republican primary.

Leonard, R-Huntington, was leading 52% to 48% with three-fourths of the vote counted.

The 71-year-old is seeking a 10th term while Stoffel, 52, of Huntington is making his first attempt at elected office.

House District 50 includes all of Huntington County and portions of Wells and Allen counties. The term is for two years and has a base salary of about $27,000. But with per diem legislators regularly make more than $50,000 for the part-time job.

Democrat Jorge Fernandez will take on the winner in the fall.

Stoffel, an elementary school math teacher, said he was running because legislation being passed is too top-down and without input from the people it impacts.

Leonard is known as a state expert on the unemployment system and has worked closely with the Department of Local Government Finance on property tax issues.

In Senate District 16, Sen. Justin Busch, R-Fort Wayne, was trouncing former Fort Wayne police Officer Tom Rhoades 69% to 31% in the GOP primary. That was with all precincts counted but no mail-in votes tallied.

Busch was appointed in a caucus to fill the vacant seat in 2018 but this is his first run to be elected by residents.

Busch, 40, has had quiet sessions during his two years – working on a bill about the dangers of dams and working on Corrections and Health committees.

Rhoades, 55, heads up the Parkview Health policy and safety programs and is president of the Southwest Allen County Schools board.

Meanwhile, Juli Dominguez was leading her opponent Tim Barr 64% to 36% on the Democratic side.

Dominguez, 49, has been an English teacher at North Side High School for 25 years. She offered herself as a moderate hoping to bring people on the left and right together.

Barr, 27, is a teacher in East Allen County Schools and is a member of the Indiana Air National Guard.

The district covers the southwest portion of Allen County. The term is for four years.

In House District 79, Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, is leading newcomer Taylor Isch in the GOP primary 55% to 45% with almost 90% of the votes counted.

Lehman, 57, has represented the district since 2009 and is a high-ranking member serving as majority floor leader. He handles many insurance issues and has helped handle key caucus issues such as payday lending and health care costs.

House District 79 covers all of Adams County and portions of Allen and Wells counties.

Isch, 26 is from Bluffton and is going to college for a degree in computer science.

He has criticized a number of Lehman's votes as not being conservative enough – including a gas tax hike.

It is a two-year term.

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