Republicans in area’s state House seats face challengers

October 18, 2018 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS : Voters get to have their say on three Indiana House districts serving the majority of Fort Wayne on Nov. 6.

Three Republican incumbents are seeking new terms while Democrats try to have their say in the Statehouse.

The winners get a two-year term with a base pay of almost 60,000 to $74,000.

Here is what you need to know about the races:

House District 81

Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, has served the district since 2012 and wants to continue to represent the citizens. He chairs the insurance committee and has become somewhat of a pension expert for the GOP caucus.

“I think I bring value, so I want to continue,” he said.

Carbaugh said the state budget will be the biggest thing to tackle in 2019 : specifically finding new money for education and to help the Indiana Department of Child Services.

He believes Indiana’s judges already have sentencing latitude when it comes to hate crimes and is weighing whether further action needs to be taken to remove Indiana from a list of five states without explicit bias crime laws.

Carbaugh thinks Indiana will likely legalize sports wagering in the upcoming legislation : something that is already happening under the table.

“It’s pretty commonplace,” he said, though he would want to see how any bill was drafted before backing sports betting.

He also believes that the movement toward medical marijuana is picking up steam.

“I hear from more and more constituents : conservative Republicans who have a family member who saw medical benefits,” Carbaugh said. “It’s something we have to explore. At some point, the mass of anecdotes becomes pretty close to evidence.”

Carbaugh faces Democrat Kyle Miller, who works at a family asphalt business and is stepping into politics for the first time.

He doesn’t need any more convincing on medical marijuana, saying there is enough empirical and anecdotal evidence that it is helping people.

Miller decided to run because he thinks the state is underfunding education and families are struggling to get health care with stagnant wages. He has knocked on 7,000 doors, he said.

If elected, he would push for a minimum wage increase : something that hasn’t happened since 2008.

But Miller’s biggest concern is funding K-12 education. He said the state siphons off more than $100 million a year to private school vouchers that could instead be used to give public school teachers a raise.

“One issue we have down at the Statehouse is we have a culture of being cheap,” he said. “We have a $2 billion surplus, which is great, but we have essential services that we are not adequately funding.”

House District 84

Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, is seeking a fifth term in the Indiana House because he said he likes to help constituents behind-the-scenes in addition to working on legislation.

The longtime business owner said one of his priorities is to ensure that schools are safe for students.

And Morris is working on offering legislation that would cap a taxpayer’s assessed value on a piece of property until it is sold again. So if you buy a house in 2018, the initial assessed value : half of the formula for your property tax bill : would stay the same until you sell the home. Then the next owner will start paying on the new value.

“It slows government’s growth,” he said.

Morris said he will push for adequate K-12 and higher-education funding for Fort Wayne schools and is proud of work he did on a bill allowing many veterans to join local police and fire departments regardless of their age.

Morris faces Curtis Nash, an Air Force veteran who is an adjunct English professor in the city.

He challenged Morris unsuccessfully in 2016 and said he’s applying what he learned from that experience to his latest attempt.

Issues that Nash is focusing on include bail and jail reform for nonviolent offenders. He said many people sitting in local jails are there for minor crimes but can’t afford the bail.

And he wants the state to focus more on interstate passenger rail : not just building roads.

The first bill he would offer is a full legalization of marijuana : for recreation or medicinal purposes.

“We already know it has health benefits and is less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes,” Nash said.

He also supports a hate crimes law.

House District 85

Rep. Dave Heine, R-New Haven, is running for a second term for one major reason : all three of his children moved to Indianapolis after college, and he wants to help northeast Indiana grow.

He faces Democrat Christopher Rex.

Heine is a retired business executive who has also spent much of his life in agriculture. The family farm is shutting down after this fall’s harvest.

One issue he is learning about is how to expand broadband in rural areas. He mentioned that some school districts have e-learning days at home but some students can’t participate because they don’t have access to the internet.

“It’s expensive, but we have to finance it,” Heine said.

During his first term, he was proud to vote for a balanced budget and a highway bill providing funding for the future.

The latter involved a gas tax increase, which he couldn’t have imagined supporting before he became a state rep.

“But when you are in the business world and you get the facts, then you make the right call,” he said.

When reached by The Journal Gazette, Rex refused an interview.