Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Indiana Republican State Legislators Face Primary Challenges

Robert Behning
Having tilted against enough windmills during my political lifetime, I know the long odds of people taking on incumbents or, in Marion County, going up against slated candidates.  A victory for those outsiders is a long-shot.  But primaries can be revealing even if the outsiders do not prevail.  Let's look at some Republican state legislative primary races:

Races to watch locally are the Robert Behning-Michael Scott race in House District 91, which takes up part of the southwest portion of Marion County with about half of the district in Hendricks County.  Behning has tried to move to he right of Scott, a union electrician, by pointing out labor contributions.  Scott ran against Behning in 2012 and garnered nearly 37% of the vote, a huge number for a challenger to a long-time incumbent.  This time
Michael Scott
Scott is firing away again as a blue collar, lunch pail Republican who opposed the type of education reform, including charters, that Behning has led in the legislature.  For reasons I'm not quite sure, though I'm sure its not Behning's support of education reform which is mainstream Republican, there is a lot of dissatisfaction with Behning in that district.   With a district that is about 63% Republican, the Behning-Scott matchup will probably determine who wins that seat.

On the opposite side of Indianapolis, the Northeast, there is a battle taking place involving long-time Senator Jim Merritt and challenger Crystal LaMotte,   LaMotte is former spokeswoman for Crisis Pregnancy Centers and Right to Life of Indianapolis.  She has criticized Merritt for his votes to remove the civil union ban from the
Sen. Jim Merritt
proposed amendment which would have banned same-sex marriage.  On other issues, she faults Merritt for abandoning conservative principles.  While LaMotte has been undoubtedly funding-challenged, I think she could have challenged Merritt's fiscal conservative credentials, tying the Senator to his continued support of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's tax and spend policies.   Most of her focus seems to be on social issues.  While I don't expect LaMotte to win, anything north of 35% would represent a major rebuke to the sitting state senator.

Crystal LaMotte
In Carmel, Rep. Jerry Torr faces off against Don Meier.  Unions, which are still angry about Torr for his authorship of the Right to Work bill, have jointed together to support behind Meier, sending out mailings criticizing Torr for his support of a mass transit bill that would lead to large tax increases in the district.  While Torr is likely to prevail, it will be interesting to see whether his position in support of mass transit hurts him at the poll.

Probably the challenger with the best chance of an upset is Curt Nisly running in House District 22 which includes Kosciusko and Elkhart counties. Representative Rebecca Kubacki of Syracuse has drawn the angst of the tea party as well as religious conservatives.   Kubacki has been targeted by Indiana Family Action, the political action arm of the Indiana Family Institute.  Kubacki has been accused of flip-flopping on the marriage issue and has riled constituents with comments suggesting she would listen only to "education professionals" and not to constituents when it came to education reform issues.   Of the four, I think Nisly has the best chance of scoring an election upset today.


Nicolas Martin said...

Despite the resemblance and promising first name, I doubt that Crystal LaMotte would become the inspirational legislator that Cicciolina was.

Felicity Miles said...

We can talk as much as we can, but it is time we do something about education. We have to realize that we are in a desperate need for education reform and we have to do it as fast as possible. Yes, I do understand that it is more of a money related thing, but we should find enough to provide kids with decent future. This is my personal opinion and I am sure that many would agree with me.
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Nicolas Martin said...

Poor education in America is not a “money related thing” in the sense of it being lacking. The US spends far more per pupil than most countries, but in the last PISA* ranked 36th in math, 24th in reading, and 28th in science. Students in Shanghai, China averaged two grades advanced in math over students in the best performing US state, Massachusetts. Per pupil spending in Shanghai is much lower than in the US.

Contrary to myth, suburban American schools are not as good as even average schools in top performing countries. Last time I ran the numbers, IPL spent about the same per pupil as tuition at the top private schools in Indianapolis.

As the great education critic Richard Mitchell said, American schools get TOO MUCH money, and they spend it on an overabundance of overpaid administrators and a lot of techno junk, among other wasteful things. For instance, in my daughter’s school they are buying iPads for students, despite the absence of evidence that computers improve K-12 education.

The problem with American education starts in the colleges of education, with this jargon-laden opposition to mere learning.

The authors of the 2012 PISA report noted:

PISA results show that beyond a certain level of expenditure per student, excellence in education requires more than money: how resources are allocated is just as important as the amount of resources available.

*PISA is a standardized international test conducted in 65 countries.


Anyone who cares about education should read Richard Mitchell.


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