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Ideological battle in state’s 82nd district

October 29, 2016 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS – One man wants to bring some liberal ideas to the Indiana House, while the incumbent wants to continue down a conservative path.

That is the choice in House District 82 between Rep. Dave Ober, R-Albion, and Democrat sheet metal worker Mike Wilber.

Ober, 29, was first elected to the Indiana House in 2012 and is seeking a third two-year term. Wilber, 46, has run a few times for the House but hasn’t won.

The district includes Noble County and parts of LaGrange, Allen and Whitley counties.

The race is for a two-year term paying $24,140 in base salary a year. After expenses and pay for holding any leadership positions, that salary ranges from $49,000 to about $71,000 for a part-time job.

“I still don’t like the direction Indiana is going,” Wilber said.

His biggest concern is public education and how lawmakers have essentially set up a system where charter schools and private voucher schools compete with public schools but don’t have to follow the same admission rules.

Wilber’s daughter is in college to become a teacher now and is nervous and scared for the political climate – but it’s what she loves.

Ober said a third term would be good for him because “by now, you are really hitting your stride” after a few years of learning the process and becoming knowledgeable on a number of issues.

He has worked extensively on labor issues, such as worker’s compensation, prevailing wage, unemployment insurance and pensions. He is also a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which handles virtually all fiscal decisions.

Ober is proud of a bill he worked on last year that helped a local winery serve both beer and wine without having two separate tasting rooms.

“It was small but something tangible that I helped accomplish for the district,” he said, noting the winery has invested heavily in the area and was being affected by an unnecessary government regulation.

If elected, Wilber would push for increasing Indiana’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

And he also says he supports equality for all Hoosiers – including protecting gay, lesbian and transgender Hoosiers from discrimination.

On infrastructure, he wants to use some of the state’s $2 billion surplus rather than chipping and sealing roads.

“It’s ridiculous,” Wilber said. “It’s like saying I’m super rich because I haven’t made a house payment in two years.”

If re-elected, Ober hopes to help the Maumee River Basin Commission get a funding boost in the new state budget.

“They have a really strong track record of leveraging that with federal dollars, and they are in need of some help,” he said.

Ober also wants to work on improving broadband access around the state, noting he moved from the country into to town just to have reliable Wi-Fi.

“If young people can’t stream, they’re gone,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you have fancy trails.”

nkelly@jg.net