An incumbent’s Statehouse experience sets a high bar for any challenger. Michael Barranda easily surpasses the mark set for Indiana House District 84. The Fort Wayne attorney has the commitment, talent and demeanor to emerge as a leader not only in the northeast Indiana delegation but in the entire General Assembly.
Barranda faces Rep. Bob Morris in the Republican primary. Morris first won the seat in a party caucus in 2010. While Morris’ business record is extensive – he owns six HealthKick Nutrition Centers and several other enterprises – his legislative accomplishments are few.
Even as a member of the majority party, his bills did not receive a hearing in the last session. As area lawmakers worked to increase IPFW’s autonomy from Purdue University, Morris was missing in action – even though the regional campus borders his district.
Barranda’s decision to challenge the incumbent did not come lightly. He considered running as an independent after a letter Morris wrote explaining why he would not sign a resolution honoring the Girl Scouts was leaked by one of his GOP colleagues. The backlash brought national notoriety to the first-term legislator and to the city.
As a community leader, I felt it was a poor reflection on Fort Wayne, Barranda said at the time. I wanted to explore what I can personally do.
Because the filing deadline for the Republican primary was past, he ultimately decided to wait for the next opportunity to seek the nomination in the district, which roughly includes the northeast side of Fort Wayne.
A Kendallville native who graduated from the University of Notre Dame and Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Barranda, 35, has an impressive community service record. He serves on the boards of the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne, the Olive B. Cole Foundation and St. Joseph Hospital. He has served on committees with the Fort Wayne Chamber, Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and the Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana. He was among the early participants in Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana, the group that has played a key role in Fort Wayne’s progress in retaining young professionals.
Barranda’s real strength, however, is in the potential contributions he can make for northeast Indiana, beginning with what he calls a more substantive approach to legislation. While he holds party-line views on abortion and Second Amendment rights, Barranda challenges the broad expansion of school choice championed by the GOP-controlled legislature. It is contrary to the approach fiscal conservatives should take, he said.
Schools aren’t a free market, said the former economics major. It’s a finite consumer base – a very basic economic principle.
Barranda said he also wants to ensure IPFW has the ability to serve local industries in research and development. The university’s current governing structure gives it little flexibility in developing new degree programs.
Not having that ability really hampers our community, he said. It’s common sense.
For Republican voters, Barranda is the common-sense choice for the District 84 seat.