The following Q-and-A was compiled by contributing writer David Bangert and was first published in his Substack newsletter, Based in Lafayette, Indiana.
Why are you running?
We have grown too accustomed to politicians who are better known for their grandstanding than their skills at governing. I’m running because I believe in a different model in which we are governed by normal and well-adjusted, but also highly qualified people who want to do the right thing. I am a dad, a youth basketball coach and a first-time candidate. I’ve also had a career that prepared me to be an effective legislator. Running at times is a personal and professional sacrifice, but after receiving encouragement from Sen. Ron Alting and others that the district needed someone like me, I felt duty-bound to run.
What are two priorities you want to get done during your term, if elected? And how would you get those done?
First, we need a more resilient economy with higher-paying jobs and a well-trained workforce willing to fill them. We do that by strengthening education and workforce development at every level and by aligning the incentives, from government benefits to affordable childcare, to get people into the workforce.
Second, we need to invest in physical and mental health care. Indiana’s hospitals have nearly monopolized our state, consumed independent physicians and driven up the costs of care to the point where we are among the most expensive in the country. Regulatory changes such as more autonomy for pharmacists and psychiatric nurse practitioners are a first step.
Indiana’s new abortion law restricts abortions with limited exceptions for cases involving rape, incest and some medical complications. Do you support the way Senate Bill 1 was written? And what changes would you propose or support in the next legislative session?
Despite my opponent’s attempts to intentionally misinterpret and dishonestly abbreviate my views for his own political gain, my position has been consistent. I favor strong exceptions. I believe the law failed to adequately help women and children in difficult situations and to address the root causes of abortion, including expanding access to contraceptives. I am yet to meet a Hoosier who does not believe there is a point in which it is wrong to stop a baby’s heart for reasons of convenience. Where we vary is when to draw that line, and for me, given what we know about prenatal child development and fetal pain, I want to err on the side of protecting human life early in the pregnancy. If the law creates unworkable problems, it will be the General Assembly's duty to correct those.
No matter who is elected, you’ll likely have to navigate a Republican supermajority in both chambers of the General Assembly when representing your district. How will you do that, and what makes your prospects for success better than those of your opponent?
: I have spent many hours over the last year developing an excellent relationship with the Senate’s top leadership and other members of the majority. I have invested in those friendships because I believe they will enable me to do more for the people I represent. Leadership and committee chairs can determine whether an idea even gets a hearing. Our community would lose influence if we elected someone outside the majority party and without those relationships, especially if that person had a reputation for being difficult to work with and an off-putting personality.
Several bills in the General Assembly in 2022 called on the state to do more to oversee curriculum, particularly with so-called divisive topics dealing with race in America, and parental oversight of classroom instruction. Did those bills go too far? Did they not go far enough?
Lawmakers should not micromanage local classrooms, nor should they add to an educator’s workload without proven educational benefits. Many proposals failed to meet those standards last year.
However, curricular transparency and parental involvement can lead to more support in the home for a child’s education. Society is enriched when classrooms expose students to scholarly ideas from a variety of perspectives, without pushing one of our two political parties. In the rare circumstances in which our schools fall short of those ideals, school boards and administrators should intervene, and local voters should hold boards accountable if they do so improperly. Without micromanaging, I want to support teachers, parents and administrators in realizing that vision.
Would you vote to legalize marijuana in Indiana? And if so, to what extent? If not, why not?
I favor more rehabilitation and harm reduction for drugs of all types. I also support a system that would allow real doctors to give legitimate prescriptions to truly ailing patients just as we do with other medically controlled substances. I do not support de facto legalization through a fake medical system. Marijuana is a product that increases in potency and risk every year, and I am yet to see a plan for full legalization that would not bring unintended consequences. I favor studying closely the experience of our neighbors to learn from their mistakes and successes.
The General Assembly last session legalized permitless carry of concealed handguns in Indiana. Was that the correct move? And what do you believe is the next step involving gun legislation in Indiana?
I’ve met many from the rural counties for whom passing that bill was a priority, and many in Tippecanoe who were strongly against it. The best arguments for it were that criminals do not ask for permits, and that women in domestic violence situations should not have to wait on the process to protect themselves. The best arguments against it came from law enforcement, and I leaned towards their objections out of respect for them. However, as in other states, I have not seen evidence that the law has had an adverse impact since taking effect here. I believe in evidence-based lawmaking, and I would like to have more evidence about the impact of the new law before adjusting it.
What would your approach be to the state’s surplus? Should it be saved? Should it be spent, and on what?
Inflation has boosted tax revenues, but it also increased the expense of providing government services, finishing ongoing capital projects and the size of cost-of-living adjustments needed for those living on state funded fixed incomes such as the Indiana Public Retirement System. Once those needs are met, we can start to look at increasing funding in strategic areas like education, mental health infrastructure, or workforce development, but we must show restraint and not take on large long-term financial obligations until we can reasonably forecast long-term revenues.
What are one or two things that separate you from your opponent and make you the best fit for your district?
Anyone who has followed my opponent’s record in university and partisan politics over the last 16 years knows he has a habit of self-promotion by bringing far left, national partisan issues to local matters. Often this is done at the expense of local interests and to the frustration of even his fellow Democratic colleagues.
Whether from the left or the right, we need less of that in our politics. Those who have endorsed me like Mayor John Dennis and Sen. Ron Alting have done so because they know me to be pragmatic, qualified and committed to doing what’s right for our community.