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Indiana Senate District 42 includes all or parts of seven counties east and south of the Indianapolis metro area, a swath of farmland and small cities that have grown smaller in recent decades with the closing of automotive manufacturers like Ford in Connersville and Chrysler in New Castle. It is represented by Jean Leising, a Republican farm owner and retired nurse from Franklin County on her second stint in the Senate; she served two terms before leaving to make an unsuccessful congressional run against Lee Hamilton in 1996 and returned in 2008.

A Google search on Leising yields page after page on her effort, in nine consecutive legislative sessions, to require the teaching of cursive writing in Indiana schools. Her rationale: Since many Indiana schools stopped teaching it about 10 years ago, students coming into their teens are unable to read it and unable to provide the required signature on employment applications. Her effort is ongoing; as in previous years, a conference committee extracted the enabling language from an education bill in the final days of the 2020 session.

In 1995, during her first stint in the Senate, Leising was author of a bill, passed and signed into law, requiring an 18-hour waiting period for abortion during which women were be told of risks and alternatives. She continues to carry high ratings from Indiana Right to Life and other social conservative groups, but in 2018 she stirred debate with her introduction of a bill to remove parental notification requirements for those 16 and older to receive medical care before, during and after pregnancy. The bill failed in a close Senate vote amid concern from elsewhere in the Republican caucus that it infringed on parental rights. She generally votes with the majority, though in 2020 she was the Senate’s only no vote on a Holcomb-administration backed bill to ban the use of hand-held devices while driving. Leising said the bill, since signed into law, would unfairly affect drivers like many in her district with older vehicles without hands-free technology.

The counties in Leising’s district have become more Republican in recent decades. Donald Trump won most of them by a 3-to-1 margin in 2016, a margin similar to Leising’s when she has a Democratic opponent. She was unopposed for reelection in 2012 and 2020. – Kevin Morgan