The Indiana Citizen

The Crossroads of Civic Engagement

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Indiana’s 50th House District includes all of Huntington County, parts of western and northwestern Wells County and a swath of southwestern Allen County that reaches into older prewar and mid-century residential areas of southwestern Fort Wayne.  As is the case in most of northeast Indiana, manufacturing is the top source of employment in the district. Industrial operations range from small toolmakers in Huntington to the General Motors Assembly Plant that builds pickup trucks in southwestern Allen County. Huntington County, the core of the district, contains more than half its population, but it’s a declining core. Huntington County’s population has dropped about 5% since 2000. The city of Huntington has lost around 2% of its residents in that time, despite some ambitious housing and renovation projects downtown.

Huntington County is a strongly Republican base for incumbent Rep. Daniel Leonard, who sold furniture there for almost 50 years. He established his community standing through decades of civic involvement — as a Scouting leader, a Mason, Chamber of Commerce president and board member in the Salvation Army — before he was elected to the General Assembly. In the state legislature, Leonard has led in detail-dense topics, such as unemployment insurance and local-government finance, that don’t generate explosive culture-war headlines.

In 2020, three of the five bills he wrote were enacted. The topics of the bills are representative of the work he does in the General Assembly: a new schedule of rates for unemployment insurance, myriad adjustments in local-government finance and a change in rules governing grants for skills enhancement.

As unemployment skyrocketed along with the spread of COVID-19, Leonard gained some fresh recognition for his work on unemployment insurance. The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne praised him in March 2020 for his years of work in shoring up the state’s unemployment insurance fund, which quickly dived into the red during the 2008-2009 Great Recession.

The same editorial board that praised him endorsed John Stoffel, his primary opponent this year, weeks later. Education was the key to that endorsement, and that subject was a motivator for his opponents in both the primary and general elections. Stoffel, who’s been a teacher for more than 20 years, criticized Leonard’s support for charter schools and other alternatives to traditional public schools that he said have caused funding crises and school closings in Huntington County. Stoffel had an exceptionally strong showing for a primary opponent against an incumbent, winning about 46% of the vote. Leonard’s Democratic opponent, Fort Wayne teacher Jorge Fernandez, managed just 28% in the general election. – Bob Caylor


(800) 382-9841
200 West Washington Street Indianapolis, IN 46204


  • BS, Industrial Management, Purdue University


Rules and Legislative Procedures, chair;  Ways and Means Committee, Local Government Finance Subcommittee, chair; Judiciary; Employment, Labor and Pensions.


SB 198-2019 (Sentencing, bias crimes). Allowed longer sentences in crimes based on personal characteristics, stripped of references to sexual orientation, gender identity and race. Yes

SB 516-2019 (Regulation of hemp). Allowed cultivation and regulation of hemp products in Indiana, did not change marijuana laws. Yes

HB 1001-2019 (State budget). Set funding for state agencies and services, including 2.5% annual increases for education, though not directly for teacher salaries. Yes

HB 1004-2019 (School safety). Increased access to funding for security systems and resource officers, was stripped of provisions for mental health screening. Yes

HB 1015-2019 (Various gaming matters). Allowed sports betting statewide and table games in more casinos, relocated a casino in Gary and authorizing a new one in Terre Haute. No

SB 1-2020 (Tobacco and vaping). Raised from 18 to 21 the legal age to buy tobacco or vaping products in Indiana. Yes

SB 148-2020 (Zoning and housing matters). Was amended to overrule local tenant protection measures like those in Indianapolis, Bloomington and Merrillville. Vetoed by governor. Yes

HB 1004-2020 (Health matters). Controlled surprise billing for out-of-network and other costs. Yes

HB 1070-2020 (Distracted driving). Made it an infraction to handle a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. Yes

HB 1414-2020 (Electric generation). Prohibited utilities from closing coal-fired generating plants without permission from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Yes


Hoosiers for Quality Education, $3,500

Indiana Manufactured Housing Association-Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council, $3,300

Catalyst Public Affairs Group, $2,840.27

Raytheon, $2,500

Indiana Bankers Association, $2,500


National Rifle Association Candidate Positions on Gun Rights 92
Indiana Manufacturers Association Positions 80
Indiana Manufacturers Association Lifetime Positions 79
Indiana Chamber of Commerce Positions (4 Year Average) 97
Indiana Chamber of Commerce Positions 92
LEAP Forward Positions (Indianna) 17
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana Positions 61
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana Lifetime Positions 39
Indiana AFL-CIO Positions 30
Indiana Manufacturers Association Positions 87


Retired; former owner, Southside Furniture in Huntington.


Population: 65,146

Race/Ethnic Origin: 92.2% white, 3.5% Black, .5% Asian, 1.9% other, 1.9% two or more; 3.8% Hispanic, 90.4% white non-Hispanic.