Key election dates
Jan. 10: First day for candidate filing
Feb. 9: Last day for candidate filing
April 9: Voter registration ends
May 8: Election Day
July 3: Deadline for major parties to file ballot vacancy paperwork
July 25: Filing period opens for school board candidates
Aug. 24: Filing period ends for school board candidates
Oct. 9: Voter registration ends for general election
Nov. 6: Election Day
If 2017 seemed like a rocky year, hold on – we've just entered an election year destined to produce strident debate. Aside from a hotly contested U.S. Senate race, Indiana voters will choose representatives to the U.S. House, Indiana House and Senate, several statewide officials, county and township representatives and school board members.
The tenor of the 2018 primary and general elections will be determined largely by the candidates themselves, so anyone unhappy with the status quo in campaign rhetoric has an opportunity to improve it by stepping up when candidate filing begins next week.
The noise from the top of the ballot will be tough to ignore. Republican candidates seeking to unseat Sen. Joe Donnelly have been on the attack – against the incumbent and one another – for months now. As Donnelly's campaign has sought to tie the front runners to Donald Trump ahead of the November election, the GOP candidates are doing their best to woo the president's supporters ahead of the primary election.
Status-wise, the congressional contests represent the top prizes in this midterm election, but the results ofraces from the Statehouse level to school board are more likely to affect Hoosiers' everyday lives. Strong candidates are needed, along with informed and interested voters. Four years ago, Indiana earned the dubious distinction of finishing dead last in voter turnout. We must do better.
All 100 seats in the Indiana House are up for election this year. On the Senate side, Republicans Liz Brown, Dennis Kruse and Travis Holdman face re-election. Democrat Kathy Zoucha, a Fort Wayne teacher and former candidate for a House seat, already has announced she will challenge Brown. Holdman faces a primary challenger alleging the Markle attorney is not conservative enough – an unfortunate result of gerrymandered districts that encourage partisan extremes.
Greater political participation could help Indiana avoid the contentious social issues driven by the right and left extremes. The General Assembly would benefit from a candidate field more diverse than we've seen in recent years – preferably one with candidates who have solid local government experience. Allen County has been blessed with first-rate public officials – former county auditor Tera Klutz, now the state auditor, is one example.
Legislative candidates who have balanced budgets, served taxpayers, taught students or served at-risk residents could help Indiana move beyond its focus on business-friendly measures and seek policies that would benefit all Hoosiers. It also could temper the legislature's enthusiasm for top-down control of local government.
A diverse field of candidates also will benefit voters at the local level. Government that looks like the people it serves is more likely to be responsive to public needs. There are strong candidates to be found not just from within political circles, but also from non-profit boards and community organizations seeking to improve quality of life in northeast Indiana.
Want to see a kinder election year in 2018? Encourage and support qualified candidates. Insist on civil debate.