The Journal Gazette
Sunday, June 07, 2020 1:00 am

Chamber gives legislators lower grades

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Indiana lawmakers recently earned new grades ranging from 33% to 90%.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce scored Indiana lawmakers on how they voted on key business legislation in the 2020 recent General Assembly. The overall marks are lower this year.

“The purpose of the Legislative Vote Analysis to show citizens and employers how their lawmakers voted on issues vital to the state's economy,” says Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. “The lower scores reflect that this General Assembly simply passed on too many economic opportunities by outright defeating vital legislation or letting the measures die.

“In addition, an unusually large number of bad bills were filed and moved through at least portions of the legislative process, diverting time and focus away from important business community priorities.”

Bills used in the analysis include tobacco reforms to reduce smoking and vaping, health care cost transparency, unemployment insurance rate schedule certainty (before the current pandemic) and a model for enhancing regional development efforts.

Legislators who scored 70% or greater for the most recent four-year voting period are eligible for endorsement consideration by the Indiana Chamber's political action committee, Indiana Business for Responsive Government.

Here is how area lawmakers fared in 2020 and their four-year average:

Rep. David Abbott, R-Rome City – 83% and 87%

Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne – 82% and 92%

Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne – 57% and 61%

Rep. Dave Heine, R-Fort Wayne– 83% and 95%

Rep. Chris Judy, R-For Wayne – 80% and 83%

Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne – 82% and 94%

Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington – 85% and 94%

Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne – 83% and 83%

Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen – 75% and 68%

Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn – 79% and 89%

Rep. David Wolkins, R-Warsaw – 74% and 85%

Rep. Dennis Zent, R-Angola – 80% and 93%

Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne – 71% and 89%

Sen. Justin Busch, R-Fort Wayne – 87% and 88%

Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange – 90% and 87%

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle – 82% and 90%

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn – 90% and 88%

Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington – 73% and 86%

Defeated Schrader carried Blackford

Perennial political candidate Tommy Schrader attracted a great deal of media attention in 2016 when he won the Democratic nomination in northeast Indiana's 3rd Congressional District despite having no semblance of a campaign.

Democratic Party leaders quickly distanced themselves from Schrader. Their theory on his primary-election victory was that many voters mistakenly assumed he was associated with one of various area businesses that share his last name – an auction company, a stockyard, an auto parts retailer and an insurance agent.

Schrader lost decisively in the general election to Republican Jim Banks. Schrader also failed in his bids for the Democratic congressional nomination in 2018 and the party's nomination for Fort Wayne mayor in 2019.

He sought the congressional nomination again this year, finishing a distant third in a four-candidate race won by high school science teacher Chip Coldiron of Ossian. But Schrader nabbed a consolation prize of sorts – he carried the small portion of Blackford County that is in the 3rd District.

Granted, it is a tiny sampling: 99 people voted in the primary. But 55 chose Schrader, compared with 27 who selected Coldiron and 17 who voted for either Carlos Marcano or Jean-Paul Kalonji.

Coldiron said Thursday that he had contacted a Democratic Party leader in Blackford County during his campaign to inquire about meeting with party officials to ask for their support.

“He said, 'Hey, we don't have a whole lot of people down here that's registered as Democrats, so we don't really even hold meetings, so there's nothing for you to come to,'” Coldiron told Political Notebook. “If there would have been some kind of meeting down there, I would have been there, but there was nothing to ever attend.”

Other choices

There were presidential nomination contests in last week's Indiana primary elections, even if all challengers to Republican President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden had suspended their campaigns at least two months earlier.

More than 6,200 Democratic voters in Allen County chose somebody other than Biden, and more than 2,400 Republicans in the county voted for Bill Weld, a former Massachusetts governor, instead of Trump.

Trump still won about 92% of the GOP ballots. Biden received 77% of the Democratic votes cast for nine candidates who qualified for Indiana ballots in what would have been a May 5 election if not for social distancing guidelines caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders received 3,939 votes from Allen County Democrats, or 14.3%, to finish second behind Biden. Former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg was third with 809 votes, or less than 3% of all Democratic ballots.

To reach Political Notebook, email Brian Francisco at or Niki Kelly at An expanded Political Notebook can be found as a daily blog at

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