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The Crossroads of Civic Engagement

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Election preview: Ed Charbonneau has been a member of the Indiana Senate since 2007.  He represents District 5, which encompasses Pulaski County as well as portions of Jasper, LaPorte, Porter and Starke counties. In the 2020 general election, he will face Democratic nominee Luke Bohm.

Charbonneau initially took the oath of office on July 23, 2007, six weeks after Republican precinct officials endorsed his bid (he was the only candidate) to succeed Vic Heinold, a Kouts Republican who had resigned in May — 2½ years into his first term — to take a job in Louisiana.

After completing the remainder of Heinhold’s term, which ran through November 2008, Charbonneau was elected in his own right. He won re-election in 2012 and 2016.

Charbonneau was a relative latecomer to electoral politics. The Gary, Indiana, native spent the bulk of his work life at U.S. Steel, a lynchpin of Northwest Indiana’s economy for more than a century. He worked for the Pittsburgh-based company for 36 years, starting out as a summer laborer and concluding his career as the head of government and community affairs.

Charbonneau retired from U.S. Steel in 2002, but he didn’t abandon the executive suite altogether. He became president and chief executive officer of the Northwest Indiana Forum, which promotes economic development in seven counties in its namesake region. Later, he served as interim president and CEO of Methodist Hospitals, a not-for-profit healthcare system that operates hospitals in Gary and Merrillville.

Over the years, he has lent his energy and experience to a number of area civic organizations, including the Porter County and Lake County chapters of United Way, the Northwest Indiana Quality of Life Council, and the Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning Center.

Charbonneau holds an undergraduate degree from Wabash College in Crawfordsville and an MBA from Loyola University in Chicago. He earned a juris doctorate at South Texas College of Law in Houston. The lawmaker says his approach to public service is simple: Help people, solve problems and avoid unnecessary partisanship. “I’m passionate about what I do — being able to help people in need,” he told the website NWI.Life in 2019. “In the end, it doesn’t have to be a major thing, although there are major things at times that we’re able to help with. But when people are overwhelmed, it feels good to be able to help them.”

Charbonneau’s legislative work extends beyond Indiana’s borders. In 2019, he began a two-year term as chair of the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus, a nonpartisan group of lawmakers from eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The panel’s primary mission: Improve the Great Lakes’ water quality and, perhaps more important, prevent invasive Asian carp from entering the lakes via the Chicago Area Waterway System.

Charbonneau and his wife, Sharon, have two children and seven grandchildren.

Bohm, a small business owner in St. John, is described on his campaign website as a native Hoosier who worked with small businesses and non-profit groups out-of-state before returning to Indiana in 2018: “After Luke graduated he worked with small businesses and non-profits throughout the Mideast. While working with Main Street Alliance and New Jersey Citizen Action, Luke brought paid family leave to the state of New Jersey. He was also apart of a successful Ax the Beverage Tax campaign in Philadelphia and Chicago.”

As a legislator, he identifies his priorities as redistricting following the 2020 census, saying, “our districts should be drawn by an independent, nonpartisan commission that doesn’t have direct ties to the district they are drawing;’’ a public education plan that deemphasizes standardized testing and increases teacher pay to salaries of at least $41,000 annually, and affordable health care, including capping prescription drug costs at no more than $100 a month. – Jon Schwantes    


(800) 382-9467
200 West Washington Street Indianapolis, IN 46204


  • JD, South Texas College of Law at Houston, 1974-1977
  • Bachelor's, Wabash College, 1961-1965
  • MBA, Loyola University


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. Yes

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


Oliver, John J., $5,000

Pinnacle Hospital, $5,000

Indiana Hospital Association, $3,800

Eli Lilly & Co., $3,000

Krieg DeVault LLP, $3,000

Indiana State Medical Association, $3,000

Indiana Bankers Association, $3,000

Anthem Inc., $3,000

Indiana American Water Co., $3,000

Northern Indiana Operators Joint Labor-Management, $3,000


Indiana Manufacturers Association Positions 89
Indiana Manufacturers Association Lifetime Positions 83
Indiana Chamber of Commerce Positions (4 Year Average) 97
Indiana Chamber of Commerce Positions 90
LEAP Forward Positions (Indianna) 0
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana Positions 40
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana Lifetime Positions 41
Indiana AFL-CIO Positions 57
Indiana Manufacturers Association Positions 75
Indiana Manufacturers Association Lifetime Positions 82


Population: 129,005

Race/Ethnic Origin: 94.5% White, 1.3% Black, 1% Asian, 1.8% Other, 1.4% Two or More.