Several northeast Indiana House districts have uncontested races this fall. Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, is unopposed, as are Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, in District 80 and Rep. Christopher Judy, R-Fort Wayne in District 83.
First-time candidates take on uphill battles challenging incumbents in the Indiana General Assembly. Aside from having less name recognition and no legislative track record, they generally lack the ability to tap a deep-pocketed legislative campaign committee. In some cases, they must overcome electoral district boundaries drawn to their disadvantage.
Democrat Kyle Miller faces all of those factors in his bid to unseat Republican Martin Carbaugh in House District 81, but he deserves an opportunity to advance views neglected by the three-term incumbent.
Miller, office manager at his family's business, Asphalt Maintenance Service, said he decided to run after “noticing things that didn't make sense,” including underfunded public schools, stagnant wages and gerrymandered districts.Miller said he found Carbaugh was not addressing those issues, “was not all that accessible” and seemed to have “lost what it means to be a representative.”
Miller favors an independent redistricting commission to redraw congressional and legislative districts.
“We just want a fair fight,” he said. “We want candidates like me, who are willing to work hard and are knowledgeable about issues, to have a fair shot. We want voters' voices to be heard.”
One issue where voices did not appear to be heard this year was on a payday-lending bill Carbaugh authored that would have allowed installment loans of up to $1,500 at rates equivalent to as much as 222 percent annually. Groups serving veterans and people in poverty joined with churches, including the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, to fight the bill, but it passed the House before dying in a Senate committee.
Miller said the bill, filed at the behest of a former legisator-turned-lobbyist, was not good for working families.
Carbaugh, a financial adviser who is chairman of the House insurance committee, said he wouldn't file the legislation again, but he defended it as an effort to give low-income Hoosiers a less-risky way to borrow.
“I fear if we don't have a regulated product of some kind, people are going to go to (internet borrowing),” he said. “And they are going to get taken advantage of way beyond anything we've seen with the regulated market.”
School vouchers represent another stark area of differences between the two candidates: Miller wants voucher schools to be held to the same standards as public schools; Carbaugh said government shouldn't be in the business of regulating religious schools.
The district includes Washington Township and a portion of Wayne Township, extending from Dupont Road on the north to Engle Road on the south.
Rep. Bob Morris was co-sponsor of the payday-lending bill and his legislative record is thin for a four-term lawmaker. His plan to file legislation that would cap a property owner's assessed value until it is sold would seemingly upendIndiana's market-value assessment system and hold harmful consequences for local government. But the local business owner faces only a nominal challenge from Democrat Curtis Nash, an adjunct English instructor who also supports payday lending services and wants to legalize marijuana.
District 84 includes most of St. Joseph Township and portions of Perry and Wayne townships.
Morris is the stronger of the two.
Rep. Dave Heine is seeking a second term after defeating Republican Casey Cox in the 2016 GOP primary election. A retired executive with Do it Best and a farmer, he has deep roots in the district.
Heine's legislative priority is to extend broadband services to rural areas of the state – an economic measure vital to the state's smaller communities.
“We need to do something,” Heine said. “When East Allen County Schools in my district have an (electronic) learning day, a lot of children don't have access to the internet, or it downloads so slowly.”
Heine's challenger, Democrat Christopher Rex, did not respond to a request for an interview with our editorial board.
The incumbent is the better choice for District 85 voters.