The Indiana Citizen

The Crossroads of Civic Engagement

Am I registered to vote?

Being an Indiana Citizen starts with registering to vote. Register here or confirm registration.

Redistricting throws two northern Indiana incumbents into competition for primary

In northern Indiana, two incumbent legislators who have been redrawn into the same district will face off in the May primary.  Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen—a proponent of limited government and personal liberties—will be challenging Rep. Craig Snow of  Warsaw, a more mainstream, business-oriented Republican.

Due to 2021 redistricting, the parameters of House District 22 will change on Nov. 9, the day after election day.

The current district incorporates the towns Nappannee, Syracuse, North Webster and most of Warsaw. The new district will include all of Warsaw and the small towns of Claypool, Silver Lake, Pierceton and Milford, all of which are in Kosciusko County.

 

Kosciusko County

Kosciusko County has over 100 lakes, with the largest ones located in the northeastern portion of the county. It is home to Tippecanoe Lake, the state’s deepest lake. This reservoir, like most of the others, was formed by glacial activity.

The county was named after a Polish general who fought in the American Revolution. Yet some residents are unsure of how to pronounce their county name. The population there is 87.6% white, 8.2% Latino, 1.7% Asian and 1.1% Black.

The county seat is Warsaw, which is a city that stands about an hour’s drive from Fort Wayne and has a population of about 16,000.

The House District 22 seat that encompasses most of the county currently belongs to Nisly, who has been in office since 2014.

Curt Nisly

Many of Nisly’s proposed bills have focused on the anti-abortion cause and the Second Amendment.

This year, he introduced House Bill 1282, which was an attempt to make most abortions illegal and legally define life as beginning at conception. He’s authored a bill with similar language several times, but none of them have become law.

In addition, his House Bill 1371 this session would have repealed all infringements on the Second Amendment right to bear arms if it had become law, but it didn’t make it past its committee hearing.

Nisly said he started the momentum for this year’s Public Law 175, which eliminated the requirement that Hoosiers obtain a permit to carry a handgun.

“I think it’s pretty clear that if I wouldn’t have been pushing for it as hard as I did in those other years, it’s unlikely to have moved the way it did this year,” Nisly said.

Permitless carry has been one of his primary projects for years, he said. He’s asked for a roll-call vote on his firearms bills a few times and said that energized conversations about gun control.

Firearms aren’t the only topics he’s vocal about.

On Nisly’s website, he posts editorials about socialism, limited government and abortion.

Nisly said he was raised in a very conservative Amish Mennonite family. He was not allowed to engage in politics in any capacity—he couldn’t vote, enlist in the Army, etc.

His family members wore modest clothing and barred themselves from television and radio, although they did use electricity and cars. His wife, whom he met when he was a teenager, was raised in a stricter Amish household. Her family was shunned in their community for a year when the two of them left their communities.

Departing their childhood customs opened them up to new possibilities and freedoms. They could consume whatever media they wanted without fear of condemnation, and Nisly registered to vote for the first time in the 2000 general election.

He first decided to run for a public office after engaging in the Tea Party political movement. There he said he learned that elected officials were representing special interest groups, like the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, rather than the will of the people they serve.

Nisly said he casts votes that reflect the people of his district. When legislators were considering tweaking the language of 2015’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act to avoid discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals, he voted it down because he felt the changes would take the religious freedom aspect out of the bill.

Nisly said his anti-abortion advocacy has always been his first priority, while gun control is next in line.

“It wasn’t until I started knocking on doors and talking to the voters that I realized how important Second Amendment issues are to the people here,” Nisly said. “The people here do not want any kind of gun control.”

Nisly said the people of Kosciusko County are “industrious” and “hard working.” Warsaw has been dubbed the orthopedic capital of the world, as it manufactures around one-third of the world’s orthopedic supplies. Nisly owns C-Tech, a small business that specializes in sheet metal production.

Nisly said people also refer to the county as the Bible belt of Indiana because it was historically an evangelist hotspot. It once attracted famous preacher Billy Sunday, whose legacy is now enshrined near Winona Lake just outside of Warsaw.

Kosciusko County is one of the most conservative counties in the state, Nisly said. In the 2020 general election, 74% of the county’s voters selected Donald Trump. That was one of the higher percentages among red counties, but the highest was in Franklin County with 80.8%.

“It’s the culture of the community, and it’s been here for a long time,” Nisly said. “People want to be left alone. They don’t want the government controlling their lives.”

Nisly’s limited government philosophy is informed by the Constitution. He stands by the 10th Amendment, which clarifies that all powers not delegated to the federal government should be left to the states or the people. His campaign has been endorsed by the Make Liberty Win PAC, which advocates for limited government and individual freedom.

He said governments should only intervene in people’s daily lives when someone is causing a problem.

Nisly said he is different from Snow because he will represent the people at all costs.

“I have always sought to represent the people of my district, even if it includes standing up to the Republican leadership in the House. I think it’s very obvious that the other representative doesn’t take that approach,” Nisly said.

Some say he’s isolated within the Republican Caucus. None of his bills have ever advanced out of committee, and he once failed to get a second on his motion to speak on a bill, which is quite rare.

Nisly said he has accomplished things, but people don’t hear about them because he doesn’t care about his name being publicized. He said he has used “unconventional methods” to make changes in the state. For example, he convinced a Democrat to include an amendment to allow underwater boat inspections to another bill after his bill failed.

Nisley enjoys outdoor recreation, namely biking and hiking. He once took a bike trip from northern Indiana to Mackinac Island, Michigan. He has also run mini marathons, but he said he has done much more political running than physical running since he took office.

His approach to address climate change is to keep the government out of the way because it messes up when it gets involved. Individuals can figure it out, he said.

“Farmers realized that if they change their practices some, they keep that nutrition and the fertilizer in their fields. If it doesn’t run off, their fields are going to be more healthy, so they have been able to adopt those new practices without the government coming in and saying they have to adopt those practices,” Nisly said.

Nisly said it has been an honor to serve his district. He hopes his constituents will “choose wisely and vote Nisly.”

Craig Snow

Snow currently represents House District 18 and has been serving since 2020. This district is composed of the southeast part of Warsaw as well as the towns of North Manchester, Largo and Wabash.

The Warsaw portion will be cut out of District 18, while Huntington will be added.

Snow will be entering District 22 with Nisly.

Snow is a Warsaw Community High School graduate who still lives in his hometown. Professionally, he is the CEO of Cedar Holdings and the board chair of Silveus Insurance Group.

In 2022, he authored a bill pertaining to welfare regulations, which died in committee, as well as bills involving youth agriculture programs and child care, which have become public laws.

Last year, he wrote a bill about grain production that became law as well.

His website reveals that he holds similar views to Nisly. He is a “proud member of the NRA,” and he graduated with a business degree from Grace College and Theological Seminary near Warsaw. He is married to a public school teacher, so he understands the importance of shaping future generations, according to his site.

On his campaign Facebook page, he underscores the importance of combating the opioid epidemic and improving life for disabled Hoosiers.

Snow did not respond to requests for an interview.

Dee Moore

Dee Moore is the Democratic candidate in the race. She ran for the District 18 seat in 2018 and received 23.9% of the vote.

On her Facebook page, she said people in her district deserve affordable insulin. She also supports climate change action, specifically a departure from the use of fossil fuels.

She has posted about the dangers of nuclear waste disposal and the depleting supply of ice in the Arctic.

Looking ahead

House District 45 is the other place where two incumbents will be competing for one seat. This district, containing the city of Sullivan, has been expanded to include Bloomfield and Worthington.

Indiana legislators, who serve about 68,000 constituents each on average, assume office the day after the general election and serve a two-year term with no term limit. In order to run for a seat in the General Assembly, potential candidates must have lived in the state for the two years leading up to election and lived in their district for one year prior to voting day.

The primary election will take place on May 3, which will narrow candidates for the November general election down to one for each party.

Isaac Gleitz is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.