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The Crossroads of Civic Engagement

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House District 51 extends south from Michigan and west from Ohio across the lakes, small towns and farm fields of northeastern Indiana. It has been represented since 2012 by Dennis “Denny” Zent, a retired dentist from the lake community of Angola and veteran of both the Army and the Air Force. Like more than a few legislators, Zent has made the well-being of veterans a legislative priority. In 2015, he authored the Indiana Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act, passed and signed into law, to strengthen existing federal consumer protections to those in the military while they are deployed; the protections include the suspension or postponement of debt collections, foreclosures, cellphone contracts and court hearings.

In 2019, Zent stood next to Gov. Eric Holcomb as he ceremonially signed into law two bills that he had authored. The first gave priority to military families seeking waivers involving medical care for disabled children, effectively reducing their wait time for services after relocating to Indiana. In a news release, Zent noted that the average military family relocates from six to nine times and often winds up at the bottom of waiting lists with each relocation. The other bill provided for the state Office of Judicial Administration to identify veterans who have been arrested or are otherwise in the court system and to address their needs. “Many veterans deal with post-traumatic stress and may be triggered by certain everyday events that would not normally affect the average person and get in trouble with the law,’’ Zent said. “We should work with these veterans to ensure they have the resources they need to adjust to being home so they don’t get lost or stuck in the legal system without support.’’

A member of the House Public Health Committee, Zent introduced three bills that were signed into law in 2020, all relating to health care matters including the specification of procedures that dental hygienists may perform without a dentist present. Among his other authored bills was one to strengthen the penalties for failing to wear a safety belt and for failing to properly fasten and restrain a child in a motor vehicle; the bill did not make it out of a House committee.

As configured since the 1990 census, House District 51 has never elected a Democrat. Zent ran unopposed in 2014 and 2016, and in both 2018 and 2020 he won by 3-to-1 margins over Democrat Michael Stephenson, a crane operator whose campaign emphasized workers’ rights and the repeal of right-to-work laws. – Kevin Morgan


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


  • MsD, Endodontics, Indiana University School of Dentistry, 1985
  • DDS, Dentistry, Indiana University School of Dentistry, 1975-1979
  • Attended, Pre-Dentistry, Indiana University at Bloomington, 1974-1975
  • Attended, Pre-Dentistry, Indiana University - Purdue University at Fort Wayne, 1972-1974
  • Attended, Mechanical Engineering, Indiana University - Purdue University at Fort Wayne, 1966-1968


Local Government chair; Public Health; Veterans Affairs and Public Safety


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. No

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


Indiana Dental Association, $6,000
Indiana Bankers Association, $2,000
Indiana Optometric Association, $2,000
Indiana State Medical Association, $1,000
Indiana Association of Realtors, $1,000


Indiana Manufacturers Association Positions 88
Indiana Manufacturers Association Lifetime Positions 81
Indiana Chamber of Commerce Positions (4 Year Average) 97
Indiana Chamber of Commerce Positions 92
LEAP Forward Positions (Indianna) 8
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana Positions 53
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana Lifetime Positions 39
Indiana AFL-CIO Positions 30
Indiana Manufacturers Association Positions 86
Indiana Manufacturers Association Lifetime Positions 89


Endodontist at Endodontic Associates Inc.; veteran of U.S. Army; U.S. Air Force


Population: 64,776

Race/Ethnic Origin: 96.6% White, 0.4% Black, 0.4% Asian, 1.7% Other, 0.9% Two or More.