ROANOKE – John Stephens figured people would wonder why he was announcing a campaign for Indiana's 3rd Congressional District nearly two years early.
“We're starting this early, 22 months before an election because we can't talk about what we want to do. We have to talk about why,” he said. “Why is that important? Why is clean energy important, why is criminal justice reform important, why is protecting labor unions important. Those are things we're going to start with.”
Standing on the stage at the United Auto Workers union hall in Roanoke on Saturday, Stephens became the first candidate to announce plans to enter the 2022 Democratic Party primary for the 3rd District seat currently held by Republican Rep. Jim Banks.
The campaign event was hosted by Women Together of Northeast Indiana.
Stephens said he has lived in Fort Wayne for about a year after relocating from the Denver area. He is the sales program manager for a publishing company and owns a small business in Colorado. Stephens said he has also worked on various political campaigns over the years, from the municipal to national level.
Speaking to a group of residents and supporters in a town hall-style meeting Saturday, Stephens said he wants to abolish the death penalty, cash bond and mandatory minimum sentencing and release from prison nonviolent offenders convicted of drug possession. Stephens also said he wants police training to be a priority for federal funding.
“A silly Indiana statistic: It takes longer to become a hair stylist than it does to become a cop. That's not fair to either group, is it?” he said. “Hair stylists find themselves thousands of dollars in debt, and cops find themselves with a gun and not enough training.”
The way to fix that, he said, is to “put money into training, rather than necessarily putting it into used military equipment.”
Stephens said 3rd District residents can expect to see a lot of him in the next several months.
“Over the course of two hours of a town hall meeting ... you don't get to know what's important to voters. But in every county across this district's a great coffee shop and I found some awesome diners in places,” he said. “I'm going to come sit in those places. Not once a month, not occasionally, you're not going to see me once a year. We're going to talk to rural voters where they live, while we enjoy some biscuits and gravy.”
Stephens' speech and question-and-answer session can be viewed online at www.facebook.com/stephensforcongress. More information about the candidate is also available at stephensforcongress.com.