Candidates vie for chance to represent Tippecanoe County area in Statehouse

LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A batch of public servants want to represent the Greater Lafayette area in the Indiana State General Assembly – some for the first time, others to continue their representation. Others face no opposition and will sit out the stress of the upcoming Nov. 8 election.

Prior to the start of early voting in October, the Journal & Courier reached out to those on the Tippecanoe County ballots for their perspective on three particular questions. Their comments are present without editing.

The questions presented to the candidates were:

  • Indiana's abortion law

  • Public education – Are there priorities you see with the funding of public schools; campus security; curriculum?

  • Any specific issues driving your desire for public service?

Indiana Senate

Two different Senate districts cover portions of Tippecanoe County, Districts 22 and 23.

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In District 22, long-serving Sen. Ron Alting has no opponent on the Nov. 8 ballot.

For District 23, West Lafayette City Council Member David Sanders, a Democrat, faces Republican Spencer Deery, deputy chief of staff for Purdue President Mitch Daniels.

Perspective on Indiana's abortion law

David Sanders: "I have a well-established record for defending personal privacy against government intrusion. I am also a well-known advocate for full access to healthcare and women's rights. I would have opposed SB1 and would welcome opportunities to work with my colleagues across the political divide who believe it should not be the law. Politicians who say that now that SB1 is enacted we should also have healthcare and childcare options for women that they should have had all along are being disingenuous. Also, it has become common for politicians, including my opponent, to take extreme positions on these issues in the primary only to modify them to appear more mainstream in the general election."

Spencer Deery: "The special session asked our elected officials to consider some of the most emotional, divisive and complicated issues of our time. We deserve a senator who brings tact and compassion to the debate, and I believe this is a point in which voters will have a choice between two styles come November.

"I oppose elective abortions as a means of birth control, and I support exceptions for the health of the mother, rape, incest and nonviable pregnancies.

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"I’m troubled that the session failed to yield progress in making contraceptives more accessible and in reducing the costs of bringing a child into the world. Whether it’s through tax credits or a small-government approach to paid family leave, all options should be on the table to address the root causes of abortion.

"I will be watching how the law impacts our medical workforce, maternal health, child poverty and other details. If we find the current law generates unworkable problems, it will be the General Assembly's duty to correct those."

Public education

Sanders: "Working to help our rural public schools have access to the resources they need to provide education that is comparable with that at excellent schools such as those in West Lafayette--a matter of fundamental equity as well as essential to economic development. Educators must have the support they deserve so that they can be recruited and retained. They must be provided with the trust that as professionals they are qualified to create the curriculum. There must always be an emphasis on inclusion as well as diversity. Public funds for education should fund public education--an issue with which I differ with my opponent."

Deery: "My priority is and always will be students, but other than what goes on at home, the recruitment, training and retention of high-quality teachers is the single most important factor in a student’s journey towards education success. Funding and pay are important, but so are administrative support, teacher workload and school discipline. I am the son of two public educators and the father of three kids currently in public schools. I want my children’s teachers to be able to teach, and my kids to fall in love with learning. The state can help with the right policies, but above all else, it must never make things worse."

Any specific issues driving your desire for public service?

Sanders: "As a scientist with a career of research and teaching accomplishment, I have always been interested in the intersection of science and public policy. I also have extensive experience with the legislative process as a West Lafayette City Councilor and in leadership roles in Purdue University affairs. I believe in responsiveness, answering every personal electronic message that I receive. Most importantly, I actually care for my constituents. I donate all of my salary as an official to nonprofit institutions or people in need. In addition to being an active member of the community through participating in a large number of local events, in the course of the campaign I have campaigned door-to-door everywhere in the district. I also answer every request for a media interview and accepted both requests to participate in candidate debates--my opponent declined both of them. It seems to me that voters are best served by an elected official who makes every effort to meet them as individuals and not by one who hides behind a party affiliation and floods mailboxes with postcards."

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Deery: "Lawmakers need to chart a path to a more prosperous, post-pandemic normal than our current trajectory. Many Hoosier families are struggling and feeling a deep anxiety. Their incomes have not kept pace with inflation and a recession is on the horizon. Students are still catching up from shutdown induced learning loss. Some Indiana zip codes are among the unhealthiest in the country, mental health services are often inaccessible, and our hospital prices are among the most expensive in the nation.

"Some of these problems didn’t start with the pandemic, but they were exacerbated by politicians who have cared more about grandstanding than governing. I have never sought political office before, but I am doing so because I believe we need political newcomers with the qualifications, commonsense and integrity to seek evidence-based solutions that lead to a more resilient economy, a better educational system, and affordable, accessible and efficient health care."

House District 13

Rep. Sharon Negele, Republican, has no Democratic opponent in the Nov. 8 election.

House District 26

State Rep. Chris Campbell, a Democrat first elected to the Indiana House of Representatives on Nov. 6, 2018, seeks reelection and faces Republican Fred Duttlinger, a military veteran who is assistant director of civic literacy at Purdue.

Perspective on Indiana's abortion law

Rep. Campbell: "I absolutely reject the legislation that was passed in SB1 during the 2022 special session, and voted against it during the special session.

"I feel the infrastructure to handle the negative impacts of the abortion ban will need to be a high priority in the coming session. With Indiana leading states with the third highest maternal mortality rate and seventh highest infant mortality rate, the abortion ban will only increase maternal and infant deaths. Pregnant women are dying at higher rates in Indiana than in many third world countries. Lack of access to prenatal and postpartum care, to safe affordable housing and childcare options, along with food insecurity, substance use disorder, and poverty are reasons for these rates.

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"Decreasing unwanted pregnancies and abortions could be obtained by expanding access to contraceptives. Passing legislation to allow pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraceptives is one suggestion to achieve this goal. Currently, costly doctor visits are out of reach for many women in Indiana and are required before a prescription for contraceptives can be obtained.

"In addition, improving education by providing age-appropriate, medically accurate, comprehensive sex education has proven to reduce pregnancy rates among teens.

"Although these two measures failed during the special session when the abortion ban was passed, these are important measures if unwanted pregnancies are to be avoided. Women need to have options about when to have children."

Fred Duttlinger: "I strongly believe in the right to life. This does not and should not mean the right of one life over the other. Senate Bill 1 (SB1) recently passed in the statehouse is not a bill I could have voted for. It was not constituent driven. SB1 was mostly the personal beliefs of a few Senate legislators that co-opted the bill. To truly care for women and children we need to address mortality rates, local access to prenatal care in the counties, easier access to birth control and steps to preventing rape and molestation. I want to see abortion clinics shut because there is no need, not because of a government ban."

Public education

Campbell: "The Indiana General Assembly is going into a budget year with over a $6 billion surplus, and the State could use some of these excess tax dollars to fund public schools. In the last budget year the State added an extra $1 billion to the education budget by using federal Covid relief dollars. At the same time, eligibility for vouchers was expanded to high income families allowing them to receive 90% vouchers that the State will pay for the cost of a private school for their children. The voucher program takes state tax money away from public schools.

"Historically the state only increases the education budget 1-2%, which has also been under inflation rates. I assume a return to similar funding increases. Traditional public schools in our state did make increases to teacher pay in the last budget year by adding an extra $1 billion of Federal Cares money. Public schools must continue to keep Indiana a competitive state in recruiting and maintaining quality teachers by using some of the budget surplus to increase school funding.

"Indiana public schools still have other staff to consider when keeping up with pay rates and competition for workers in the state. The academic loss for many students due to Covid will likely continue. By attracting and retaining paraprofessional workers through an increase in pay, schools could provide the additional staff needed for critical educational support of those students who have fallen behind due to the challenges of the past couple years."

Duttlinger: "We must address the causes of our teacher shortage if we are to sustain quality education across all three of our school corporations. Quality education provides top-notch workers which leads to a prosperous economy. Teacher pay, retiree COLA, unfunded mandates, and crushing regulations and mandatory training are making it harder to attract people to the profession and keep them there. Having been in education for over a decade I can confidently fight for these changes."

Any specific issues driving your desire for public service?

Campbell: "When I first ran for office in 2018, the funding of public education in Indiana had fallen greatly behind. Teacher pay has been ranked 51st for teacher pay increases since 2000. The Indiana State Legislature continues to put the priorities of private schools and charter schools ahead of the traditional public schools that educate 90% of the student population in the state of Indiana.

"Our state government’s addressing of the environment and climate matters. also ranks at the bottom of states when it comes to air and water quality.

"The majority GOP legislators continue to pass bills that put our environment more at risk with the repeal of wetlands protection, and net metering, the repeal of which discourages use of residential solar panels."

Duttlinger: "I have felt called to serve since I was young. I did this by continuing to serve in the military for almost 20 years and by serving students for over ten. I now want to do this for the constituents of District 26. The past four years they have been served by a representative that often votes against the district on bipartisan bills, such as the trustee bill and many law enforcement and crime bills. The current representative is also on record declaring she doesn't need input and continues to support bills that take away power from the local level and gives it to the state. I will listen to the district and fight to keep power at the most local level possible."

House District 27

Democratic incumbent Rep. Sheila Klinker faces a Republican challenger, James Hass. Rep. Klinker responded after the deadline, and this story has been updated. Hass had not sent in responses to the J&C's questions by Friday afternoon.

Perspective on Indiana's abortion law

Rep. Klinker: "The Indiana Abortion Law that was passed last summer was too restrictive and detrimental to women's overall healthcare and wellbeing. I have voted for Right to Life bills in the past; however, this bill was too restrictive and caused many companies such as Eli Lilly and Cummins to question the validity of the bill. In addition, many physicians are contemplating not practicing in Indiana and have asked legislators to amend the bill as it is presently written."

Public education

Klinker: "There should be priorities for public education including funding for preschool and a sizable increase for teacher salaries in order to attract our best and brightest students into the teaching profession, as well as, retaining our teachers in the profession currently. If elected, my first bill will be to increase starting teacher salaries to $50,000 a year.

"In regards to security issues, we need to employ a school resource officer in each school setting.

"I feel strongly that we must continue to teach Social Studies in our schools. It is vitally important that our students learn the positive and negative aspects of our history in order to not repeat the mistakes that occurred in the past. Teacher's are to be trusted to teach historical facts as they truly transpired."

Any specific issues driving your desire for public service?

Klinker: "As a long time educator at many levels, my desire to serve in the Indiana House of Representatives is to continue to fight for those without a voice, provide a great public education, and promote good citizenship for the future of Indiana. As a member of the Ways and Means Budget Committee, it has been my honor to help make sure that our public collegiate institutions are some of the best in the country, including Purdue and Ivy Tech. Due to the bipartisan atmosphere in our community that works well together, it is a humbling experience and important responsibility to represent our constituency."

House District 38

Republican incumbent Rep. Heath R. VanNatter faces no opponent in the Nov. 8 election.

House District 41

Rep. Tim Brown, the Republican from Crawfordsville who had served the district since 1994, announced he would not be seeking reelection. That opened the door for two new candidates for the district -- Democrat Greg A. Woods, an emergency medical technician in Zionsville, and Republican Mark Genda, a businessman from Clinton County.

Perspective on Indiana's abortion law

Greg A. Woods: "I fully support Bodily Autonomy and believe nobody, especially any man, has the right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body. By passing this draconian law we have taken thee million Hoosier women and girls and made them second class citizens. Just because SCOTUS was too cowardly to make a ruling of its own and allowing the states to decide does not mean we have to agree with it and the majority of Hoosiers do not. As such I will be working to revisit and repeal SB1."

Mark Genda: "A decision was made during the summer special session that were reflective of the constituents of Indiana. Now that is law is being challenged in the judicial system awaiting the outcome. I believe this topic will be reviewed and discussed throughout both the courts and legislature. This is how governmentchecks and balances are designed to work."

Public education

Woods: "We must give our schools back to our educators. We must give our educators back the respect they deserve. We must stop allowing outside sources to tear our public education system apart. We must teach to the student and not teach to the test. We must start paying our educators what they are worth and start rebuilding and refurbishing our school buildings in rural Indiana. To do this I plan to use most of the tax dollars we will get from legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana in Indiana. Until that is done, we will start with the 6 plus BILLION dollars the GOP is sitting on. I tell everyone I meet, if they remember nothing else, I say remember this. 'Without qualified and respected educators in Indiana, we will never have a qualified and respected work force in Indiana.'”

Genda: "I believe in public education. I am a product of public education. I believe the best solution is a student focused discussion and collaboration between school administrators, teachers, and parents.Additionally, I believe that every student deserves to attend a school where they are safe and secure."

Any specific issues driving your desire for public service?

Woods: "The need for a true working-class Bi partisan representative is needed now more than ever. Our current viral majority has left us 3000 teachers short. Has given Indiana the dirtiest water in the country and some of the dirtiest air. Not to mention one of the highest infant mortality rates all while creating issues that do not harm Hoosiers. It's time we even the scales and get back to real work."

Genda: "I was born and raised in Clinton County. I left for a few years to attain my education. I returned to Clinton County and for the last 38 years, I’ve been in a people-forward business as a funeral director andbusiness owner. This has allowed me to really understand my community and see it grow over thoseyears. I’ve taken a common-sense approach while running and building my business. Combining thesetwo skills and experiences makes me well-rounded to represent District 41 at the statehouse."

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Indiana General Assembly goal for Tippecanoe County-area candidates