Justin Busch speaks Tuesday evening at Allen County Republican Headquarters in downtown Fort Wayne. (Photos by Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette)
Republican Senate District 16 precinct officials vote in Tuesday's caucus to fill the final two years of retiring state Sen. David Long. Justin Busch defeated Tom Rhoades 51-35 to take over the final two years of Long's term.
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 1:00 am
Busch to complete Long's term
Wins GOP caucus to fill seat in state Senate
BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette
Allen County Councilman Justin Busch will replace retiring state Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne, in the General Assembly.
Busch defeated Tom Rhoades by a 51-35 vote Tuesday evening at a Republican caucus of Senate District 16 precinct officials. The district consists of western Allen County, including the western half of Fort Wayne, and the eastern edge of Whitley County.
Busch will serve the last two years of Long's four-year term, which expires in 2020.
“I'm very humbled and honored by the confidence you placed in me today. And I promise I won't let you down,” Busch told the gathering at Allen County Republican Headquarters in downtown Fort Wayne.
He said he “certainly looked up to Sen. Long for a very long time, and he has very big shoes to fill.”
Long, the Senate's president pro tem, announced in February that he would resign Nov. 7, the day after this year's general election. He has held the District 16 seat since 1996.
Busch, 38, is the northeast Indiana director for Republican U.S. Sen. Todd Young. He had been an aide to former Republican U.S. senators Dan Coats and Richard Lugar, both of Indiana, and worked for the George W. Bush administration.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday's balloting, Busch reminded voters that he has talked with them as a state Senate candidate “about finding education dollars that find their way all the way to the classroom and equip our kids with the tools they need to succeed. We talked about sound fiscal policy of a conservative nature.”
Busch said he is “a Christian conservative, a pro-life advocate, a lifetime member of the NRA that believes the Second Amendment should be protected and defended.”
Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux nominated Busch for the Senate seat.
Rhoades is police chief and public safety director for Parkview Health. He is a former captain with the Fort Wayne Police Department and vice president of the Southwest Allen County Schools board.
“I really don't have many contacts with Indianapolis or Washington, D.C., but I do have thousands of contacts in this district,” Rhoades told the caucus.
“I have devoted my life to serving and protecting this community,” he said. “I know you, and I know what your fears, your challenges and your hopes and dreams are.”
Rhoades was nominated by Ed Vessels, a former executive for Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems in Huntington. Rhoades announced his candidacy this month; Busch announced in April that he would seek to replace Long.
A senator's base salary is nearly $26,000 a year plus daily expenses while the legislature is in session. The 50-member Senate is typically in session 61 days in even-numbered years and 30 days in odd-numbered years.
Long, 63, has led the Indiana Senate since 2006. He is general counsel for Pizza Hut of Fort Wayne and a former member of the Fort Wayne City Council.
“It is going to be a big, big loss to the state of Indiana that he's no longer down in the Statehouse,” said Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer, who conducted Tuesday's caucus.
Hupfer said Long helped lead a Republican government that made Indiana “a shining star of the Midwest and really to the whole country on economic development, tax structure, infrastructure, you name it.”
Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine said Long is “a true conciliator and intellect.”
Long said he was “very comfortable with either” Busch or Rhoades replacing him.
“And that's important to me, because I've spent 22 years of labor and love and really do my very best to represent the district and the community and our corner of the state and the state of Indiana itself. And I think as Kyle said, we're in pretty good shape today,” Long said.
He said his 30 years in city and state elective offices “is a long time, and it's been long enough. But it's been my honor and my privilege, so thank you for that opportunity.”
The Allen County Republican Party will schedule a caucus to fill Busch's vacant term on the County Council, which expires in 2020. A GOP caucus in 2016 chose Busch to fill the term left vacant by the death of County Councilman Roy Buskirk.