By DAVID A. MANN
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Voters in certain precincts of Clark and Floyd counties will have two contested races for Indiana state representative to decide on come primary election day.
In District 72, two Democrats — Sharon Grabowski and Thomas L. Lenfert — are seeking the nod to face incumbent Republican Edward D. “Ed” Clere. District 72 includes the inner areas of Floyd County, including the city of New Albany, one precinct in western Clarksville and some of Georgetown.
Grabowski, 65, New Albany, is a former teacher for the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated Schools system. She retired about nine years ago and has since been working as an investment adviser with MetLife.
Though she’s never held elected political office, she plans to rely on her four years of experience as president of the teachers’ union, between 1998 and 2002, in working together with other legislators in Indianapolis. She believes she would be a good match against Clere, because “I feel that I have the backing of teachers and the educational system here in New Albany. I have a good reputation here in town.”
In the weeks that she’s been campaigning, she’s been talking to voters about funding for schools, saying that it’s been frozen at nearly the same level since 2007. Other issues like creating jobs and protecting Medicare funds for senior citizens have been key on the campaign trail as well, she said.
“Plus I’m asking constituents to let me know what their issues are,” she said.
As for goals for improving state government, she said she’d like to see legislators work together, rather than splitting along party lines.
Lenfert, 57, of Georgetown, is a self-employed landscaper and grass-cutter. He’s not held political office before either, but this won’t be the first time he’s been on the ballot. In recent years, he’s run for Floyd County council and commissioner seats, most recently in 2008. Last year, he declared his candidacy for governor of Indiana before dropping out of the race.
He’s seeking the state representative seat now, saying he’s upset with the way Clere has handled the job. Specifically, he said, Clere should have gotten input from constituents before voting on the right-to-work bill that came up during the last session of the Indiana General Assembly. That bill outlawed labor agreements that require workers to pay union dues.
“I’m representing the people not myself,” he said. “You got to remember the people in the county who put you in the office.”
He admits both himself and Grabowski are likely qualified for the office, but said his past experience in running campaigns in the last 12 years makes him the better choice to face Clere in the fall.
So far, his campaigning activities have consisted of passing out fliers and some door-to-door activities. If elected, a key issue will be making sure revenues from Hoosier Lottery sales goes strictly to education.
“If I could get that passed, there won’t be no school closings,” he said.
Clere, a New Albany Realtor, is in his second consecutive term in Indianapolis.
In District 70 — which covers western areas of Clark County, outlying areas of Floyd County and most of Harrison County — Democrats Alva J. “Jim” Kincaid and Terry L. Miller are seeking to challenge incumbent Republican Rhonda J. Rhoads. Voters in the northern portion Clarksville, Sellersburg, Galena, Georgetown and Greenville will see the race on their ballots.
Terry Miller, 61, of Elizabeth, has served as a member of the Harrison County Commissioners for more than 17 years. He also served as a county Democratic Party chairman. He served as superintendent of the Elizabeth Water Co.
“I just don’t think the 70th District is getting the representation that we desire and need,” he said.
He criticized Rhoads for voting strictly along party lines and noted that he’s had experience working with Republicans in the past. Like Lenfert, he’s critical of GOP-backed right-to-work legislation that the Indiana General Assembly passed last year, saying it upset many would-be constituents.
Along the campaign trail, he’s been talking to voters not only about that issue but also the proposed Kernan-Shepard legislation, which is supposed to streamline local government. He opposes the reform proposals, arguing against taking layers of accountability and checks and balances.
The Kernan-Shepard report — authored by former Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard, a Republican, and former Gov. Joe Kernan, a Democrat — called for virtually eliminating township government, consolidating hundreds of school and library districts and imposing new rules for financial accountability among other points. Some of their recommendations passed in the last session.
Further, Miller said he would push for a new interchange from Interstate 64 in Corydon.
If elected, he said he would push for more bipartisanship at the Statehouse.
“I think they need to get along up there in Indianapolis,” he said. For now, he said the GOP is “bulldozing” legislation through the General Assembly.
“I’m not sure that’s best for the people.”
Fellow Democrat Kincaid, 45, of Bradford, is assistant to the president of Teamsters Local 89. It’s the first time he’s run for office but he said he was prompted to do so as he feels workers’ rights are under attack.
Specifically, he was critical of Rhoads’ vote on right-to-work legislation, saying it risked good paying jobs for the state. Taking away one $20 per hour job and replacing it with two $10 per hour jobs would only serve to put two more Hoosiers on food stamps, he said.
“I just feel there have been a lot of attacks on workers.”
Moreover, he would push for a statewide focus on workforce retraining, to develop skills for those currently out of work.
Another key issue for Kincaid is taking more steps to quell the further useage of synthetic drugs such as K2 spice and bath salts. The drugs, which were legal until a statewide ban was approved earlier this year, were mostly sold in gas stations. The candidate wants tougher laws on the books that would go after retailers that ignored the bans.
“I’ve seen a lot of these kids using it. We had a 17-year old boy that overdosed and died. “
Rhoads, 61 and a retired teacher, unseated 32-year incumbent Paul Robertson for the Statehouse seat two years ago.
Primary election day is May 8.