The Goshen News | Denise Fedorow
Published March 7, 2022
NAPPANEE — About three dozen people showed up to hear from and speak to Democratic representatives and candidates at a Jobs Tour stop in Nappanee Saturday afternoon. The event was hosted by ACT Nappanee-Wakarusa, Elkhart County Young Democrats and the Elkhart County Democratic Party.
Indiana State Rep. Maureen Bauer, D-Disrict 6, Democratic candidate for Secretary of State Destiny Wells, City of Hammond Mayor and Candidate for U.S. Senate Thomas McDermott Jr., City of Elkhart 1st District Council Member Aaron Mishler and Congressional Candidate Paul Steury were present.
Bauer spoke about the ways in which the American Rescue Plan has helped the state and why she believes Indiana needs to legalize cannabis. She said with the American Rescue Plan funds they were able to restore public school education funding “back to pre-Mitch Daniels days” and set aside funds specifically to increase teacher’s pay.
“Every region across the state received READI (Regional Economic Acceleration & Development Initiative) grant funds aimed at attracting and retaining workforce and not one of our congressmen or women voted for it,” she said. “They didn’t vote to bring that money to the state. We need leaders willing to work together, work for us and what’s best for us in the State of Indiana.”
She said when looking at retaining youth for the workforce we have to remain competitive with surrounding states of Ohio, Illinois and Michigan — all of which have some form of legalized cannabis in their states. She pointed out that 37 states have some form of legalized cannabis, “leaving Indiana behind.”
Bauer said people in her district have chronic pain, cancer or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and medical marijuana is safer than opioids. She said the State of Mississippi, also with Republican governor, house and state, is the latest to pass legalized cannabis, but in Indiana 13 bills failed to get a hearing. Aside from medicinal uses, legalizing marijuana will create jobs including in the agriculture industry allowing for crop diversification.
Bauer said, “We remain one of the top states for attracting students to college but we don’t retain our young people. We need to remain competitive. We have to put away partisanship and work together to improve lives and livelihoods across the state.”
Later during the question-and-answer session one attendee commented that the RV industry uses cannabis for the fiber in fabrics and backing.
Candidate for Secretary of State Destiny Wells spoke about voting in the state. Wells said she grew up in a farming community of Martinsville and her husband, Oliver grew up on a farm in Rochester. The couple met while serving in the Army. They are both still lieutenant colonels in the Army Reserves. She completed multiple tours, including a combat tour in Afghanistan.
She said she believes many Hoosiers find themselves in the center and sometimes she’s been asked if she’s “catering to the right. I say, ‘No, I’m catering to Hoosiers.’”
Wells told attendees in the 2020 elections Elkhart County had 50,500 registered voters who did not vote and state-wide 1.6 million Hoosiers didn’t vote. She said the incumbent Secretary of State has said Indiana is the model state for voter accessibility, but according to Wells Indiana is 46th in the nation for turnout and the only state where the polls close at 6 p.m. Many voters were purged from the registration list without their knowledge.
She said it’s important to elect the right person for the job: “Nineteen years as military intelligence officer, the only way I know how to be is ethical.”
Thomas McDermott Jr. current mayor of Hammond, and candidate for state senate spoke of the current crisis in Ukraine.
As a Navy veteran he said, “No one had to tell me Russia was our enemy,” adding while in the Navy he was chased by and chased Russian submarines.
He reminded those present that the first impeachment trial of former president Trump was about withholding military aid to Ukraine. McDermott said he was an American first, a Hoosier second and a Democrat third.
“My dad’s a Republican and he loves me and I love him,” he said. “Just because you’re on the red team or the blue team it doesn’t mean we hate each other — we’ve forgotten that. I’m an American first.”
He also spoke of the fact that $40 million in American Recovery Plan funds went to Elkhart County and $1 million to Nappanee and the incumbent senators voted against it. He said Sen. Todd Young co-sponsored the bi-partisan infrastructure bill “until he got a call from Florida and he pulled his name from the bill. That’s not putting Indiana at the top of the priority list.”
Several people in attendance had questions, including former Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman, currently a school board member, who asked Bauer how worried they should be about some of the education bills or constitutional carry bill coming back.
She responded, “The bills you’re referring to are not dead. We have to remain on our toes. Bill 1134 has died — the anti-public school, anti-teacher bill under the guise of parental involvement. We are all advocates for parental involvement. There’s PTO’s and parent-teacher conferences.”
Bauer said although the bill died, portions of it can be revived like the distribution of harmful materials that could jail librarians.
“We all want to protect children from pornography and harmful materials,” she said, “but this is so vague it doesn’t define harmful.”
“What kept me up last night was the permit less carry bill,” Bauer said. “We have a high gun crime rate and a high suicide rate,” she said. “The money from those permits went right to the police to pay for ammunition and other things so we cut funding for the police by doing away with the permit fees.”
She said they heard eight hours of testimony from the Indiana State Police superintendent stating that the permits were working and helped to keep the police safe. She said they voted against the will of the majority of Hoosiers — over 70% of Hoosiers were opposed to removing the permits.
There was additional discussion on the subject of cannabis. Both Mishler and McDermott spoke about the impact on cannabis possession on youth — disqualifying them from jobs and serving in the military. McDermott said he was a public defender for a number of years before becoming mayor. He said decriminalizing marijuana could create jobs and have less of a burden on the justice system.
“It’s high past time we did it,” McDermott said.
One attendee expressed concerns about book banning, another about getting more people to the polls.
After the meeting Carl Shaffer shared he wanted to attend so see what the candidates think and said, “It’s important we let them know what issues are important to us.”
Brian Smith said he lives in Senate District 9 — Ryan Mishler’s district, and said with 67% of constituents opposing constitutional carry he hopes Mishler listens to his constituents. Smith said he attended to hear from the candidates and hear about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Jobs Tour is a Democratic party state-wide effort to explain the economic benefits that have flowed to Hoosier families from the infrastructure investment and Jobs act and the American Rescue Plan. The forum will be held on a revolving basis during 2022 in every congressional district in Indiana.
Denise Fedorow is a columnist and correspondent for the Goshen News. Readers may contact her at email@example.com. Follow Denise on Twitter @DeniseFedorow