Indiana House District 24 centers on the west side of Carmel and neighboring Zionsville, two of the most affluent communities in the Midwest. Their demographics are prized by advertisers and, of late, closely studied by political scientists as the result of a continuing national realignment among college-educated suburbanites – an electorate not long ago considered a lock for Republican candidates. In 2018, for the first time in eight years, Republican incumbent Donna Schaibley faced a Democrat in the general election, winning by 5,000 votes, a comfortable margin but not particularly wide in a legislature where incumbents often win by 10,000. Far more attention-getting were the municipal election returns in 2019, in which Democrats won a seat on Carmel’s west side City Council and the Zionsville mayor’s office.
Schaibley traces her public service to volunteering at her children’s schools and in Mitch Daniels’ campaign for governor and eventually rising through the ranks of the Hamilton County Republican Party; she was appointed to fill a seat vacated shortly after the 2014 election. As a legislator, Schaibley has avoided controversy and generally aligned with the more moderate members of the House Republican caucus. In 2020, she was among a bipartisan group of legislators to come out in support of a Senate bill requiring a more transparent and nonpartisan approach to redrawing legislative districts after the 2020 census; the bill did not make it out of the Senate.
Among Schaibley’s most recent bills to pass and be signed into law is one in 2019 that increased notification requirements for Indiana schools with coaches convicted of felonies; state law previously did not require schools to notify the IHSAA. In 2020, Schaibley authored a bill that would have made it more difficult to expunge the criminal records of juveniles convicted of violent crimes; the bill cleared a House committee but was pulled before a floor vote as House Democrats planned to add amendments to the bill strengthening firearms-storage requirements.
In 2020, Schaibley faced a rematch with her Democratic opponent from 2018. After one of the state’s most expensive races for a legislative seat – Schaibley’s campaign accounted for more than $290,000 of the $380,000 spent in District 24, according to campaign finance reports filed in October – she came out on top by nearly twice her margin of two years before. – Kevin Morgan