The Republican contest to fill Sen. Tom Wyss’ seat finds four candidates with nearly identical views on prominent issues – all oppose abortion and support traditional marriage, school choice and gun rights.
Among candidates with very similar views, the difference is found only in the background each would bring in representing Senate District 15. By that measure, Allen County Council President Darren Vogt has the advantage. An insurance agency owner with 12 years in local government, he possesses the broadest set of skills in budgeting, economic development, tax policy, transportation and more.
“What matters to me is the legislation that affects us adversely,” he said. “If you don’t understand the effects, you shouldn’t support it.”
An example he cites is House Bill 1006, a revision of the state’s criminal code that will result in nonviolent offenders being housed in jails and community corrections programs instead of state prisons. The change is expected to save the state $11 million but includes no funds for local government.
Vogt, 44, has grappled with the effects of several such bills as a councilman. He recognizes school funding measures that have had the same consequences for school districts.
“We’ve got to figure out a funding formula that’s fair for all,” said the father of four.
District 15, which includes all of Allen County’s Perry Township and portions of Washington, St. Joseph and Wayne townships, enjoys a strong field of candidates to replace Wyss, who is retiring after 30 years’ service.
Liz Brown, 55, served four years on the Fort Wayne City Council, where she quickly earned a reputation for asking tough questions and challenging the status quo. She could be trusted to do the same in the tradition-bound General Assembly. Brown has a law degree from the University of Notre Dame and operates a conflict mediation business.
Ken Fries, having served two terms as sheriff, said he still wants to contribute to public service. His experience in law enforcement, while not unique, would be an asset. Fries, 54, rightly points to mental health issues as a challenge the state has ignored since shutting down its developmental centers.
Jeff Snyder, 58, is the only political novice in the group. The owner of Snyder Food Services, he has good insight on the effects of tax policy on Indiana businesses and how unemployment regulations affect the workforce.
Vogt’s résumé, however, is clearly the richest in terms of public service. Six years as County Council president have given him the confidence to challenge long-standing policies and find better ways to serve Hoosiers. He’s earned the District 15 nod.