Randolph County was among the first settled in Indiana, the destination of Quakers who left North Carolina in the early 1800s for a northern state more hospitable to their religious objections to slavery. They were the first of generations of farmers who made their homes on the flat terrain of eastern Indiana and helped to build the Quaker Trace, a horse-and-buggy thoroughfare between Richmond and Fort Wayne which was also a route on the Underground Railroad. Randolph and, to its north, Jay counties comprise most of House District 33, which also includes part of Delaware County east of Muncie, It has been represented since 2018 by John “J.D.” Prescott, a Randolph County farmer who is one of only a few left in a legislature that was once dominated by those who make their living off the land.
Rather than agriculture, though, it appeared to be education that dominating the campaign as Prescott sought a second term in 2020. He faced a primary challenge from a Jay County teacher who called attention to one of Prescott’s larger campaign contributions, $1,000 from education-reform group Hoosiers for Quality Education, saying in the Muncie Star-Press, “I am disappointed that he would be willing to take money from an organization that focuses on promoting charter schools when he does not even have a charter school in his district.” Prescott won the primary with about 70% of the vote and went in the fall to face another schoolteacher from Muncie, winning by a similar margin.
During his first term as a legislator, Prescott authored seven bills, none of which made it out of committee; in both 2019 and 2020, he introduced a bill to effectively allow the use of 529 college savings accounts as retirement accounts and to remove penalties for their use for purposes other than higher education. Also in 2020, he authored a bill that would have gotten rid of the state’s IREAD3 standardized test, telling the Star Press that he favors limited government involvement in education, and another to expand broadband in rural areas like his own. The latter issue was highlighted as schools closed in favor of at-home learning during the coronavirus pandemic. – Kevin Morgan