Candidate filing opens today – here’s hoping it closes Feb. 7 with a full complement of diverse, well-qualified and committed candidates. Allen County and northeast Indiana need progressive public officials to keep momentum building.
The region’s Statehouse delegation, in particular, is in dire need of candidates who look more like the districts they represent. Aside from Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, R-Syracuse, and Rep. Kathy Heuer, R-Columbia City, the northeast delegation is entirely white and male. The effect is an emphasis on economic development to the exclusion of countless other issues, including poverty and children. Northeast Indiana would benefit from elected officials who recognize the need to address poverty to as a means of improving education outcomes and raising the percentage of residents with college degrees. We sorely need state senators and representatives who understand the need for safe and affordable child care and for quality preschool programs for children from low-income families.
With a more diverse legislature, perhaps a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and another tax cut for businesses wouldn’t be the most pressing issues in the session ahead.
The prospects for a more diverse candidate pool don’t look encouraging, however. Former City Councilwoman Liz Brown is the only female candidate to announce so far, for the Senate District 15 seat now held by Republican Tom Wyss, who is retiring. Brown will have a tough battle in the GOP primary, where County Councilman Darren Vogt and Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries, as well as a local business owner, are expected to seek the nomination.
The lack of female candidates for the General Assembly isn’t due to a dearth of women in public service at the local level. With the notable exception of Allen County Council, women hold the majority of posts at the county level. Given their status as statewide leaders in their respective offices, it would be nice to see some of them take their financial and management skills to the Statehouse.
The midterm election offers plenty of contests: Third District Congress, Indiana Senate districts 14 and 15, all Indiana House seats and a dozen county-level races, including sheriff and prosecutor. Township-level races also are on the May ballots. In November, voters will choose school board representatives and a half a dozen judges.
For those who might be interested in getting involved, election as precinct committeeman or convention delegate is a fine starting point – for Republicans, service as convention delegate won’t even require a trip out of northeast Indiana to attend the GOP gathering in Fort Wayne in June.
Frustration with politics at the national level shouldn’t diminish respect for the important work public officials do at the state and local level. Encouraging wider participation is the best hope we have for some day enjoying better representation in Washington.