The Journal Gazette
Thursday, September 09, 2021 1:00 am


Chance for change

Plethora of contentious issues should drive both candidates and voters to polls at primary time

EDITORIAL BOARD | The Journal Gazette

Mask mandates. Vaccine passports. Redistricting. Health care access.

If recent public policy debates and decisions trouble you, now's the time to step up and run. Primary election contests are eight months away, but successful campaigns begin early.

Some have already started. A lively primary election season is guaranteed with the open seat for Allen County sheriff, where incumbent Dave Gladieux faces a term limit. The GOP contest has attracted his deputy chief, Troy Hershberger, along with Fort Wayne Police Capt. Mitch McKinney. FWPD's Capt. Kevin Hunter is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for sheriff. Former Sheriff Ken Fries, now a member of Allen County Council, has also considered seeking another term in the top law enforcement post. State law prohibits more than two consecutive terms as sheriff.

State Sen. Dennis Kruse's decision not to run again sets the stage for a likely contest in Senate District 14. Ron Turpin, serving his first term on the East Allen County Schools board, has already announced his candidacy. Republican Tyler Johnson, an emergency physician, plans to announce on Sept. 22 he's running for the District 14 seat.

Cameron Kelley, a Purdue Fort Wayne student, has announced he's a candidate for the GOP nomination for Allen County Council's District 4 seat. Chris Spurr is the incumbent. He was appointed by Republican Party leaders after Larry Brown resigned last year.

All of that suggests ballots will be dominated by white men next year. But Marilyn Moran-Townsend, co-founder of Advancing Voices of Women, doesn't think so.

“I believe the future is bright for more diversity on local ballots!” she wrote in response to an email query. “Twelve of the 21 participants in the recently-completed AVOW Women's Campaign Institute are people of color. Nineteen of the 21 are women. While most are starting out working in campaigns and seeking election to school boards, townships and city and county councils, these are our future state and national leaders.”

The campaign institute, which offers nonpartisan boot-camp training for potential candidates and campaign managers, has graduated 58 participants since it began in 2018. They include Rohli Booker, who plans to seek reelection to the Fort Wayne Community Schools board next year; and Sheila Curry-Campbell, who will seek reelection to County Council District 1 in 2022. Moran-Townsend said Regenia Frison Jones is considering a run for an FWCS at-large board position in 2022; Paulette Nellems is seeking reelection to the East Allen school board; and Porsche Williams is seeking election as Wayne Township trustee.

“We at AVOW are really proud of them, and we are particularly proud of their commitment to work across the aisle to get good things done on behalf of the people they serve,” Moran-Townsend wrote.

Two of the campaign institute faculty are also 2022 candidates. Fort Wayne City Clerk Lana Keesling announced her bid for the GOP nomination for state treasurer Tuesday and her daughter, Nicole Keesling, is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Allen County recorder.

Look for more interest in local school board races next year. Right-wing groups have been encouraging candidates to get involved at the grassroots level. At the Leadership Institute, a protégé of anti-tax activist Grover Norquist proclaims, “America's children suffer the effects of ... liberal domination every day. Patriotic Americans must take back the schools.” Purple for Parents, an anti-teachers union group, has been organizing in Indiana by targeting parents opposed to mask mandates.

Each of the four Allen County districts has school board contests next year. In all but FWCS, mask mandates have been a contentious issue.

The best time to influence public policy is election time. As proponents of mask requirements and redistricting reform are learning, some incumbents aren't interested in views contrary to their own or those of their campaign supporters. Electing candidates who share your views is the best approach – or seeking office yourself. 

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