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Candidates scramble to fill New Castle grad's Senate seat

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

There will be a new senator for Indiana’s District 26.

Three people are vying to fill the shoes of New Castle graduate Doug Eckerty, who has represented the district that includes parts of northern Henry County. Eckerty has served as District 26 Senator since 2010.

Republican Mike Gaskill, a friend of Eckerty’s for many years, hopes to succeed him and maintain the GOP’s stranglehold on the Senate, which currently stands 41-9.

He is being opposed by Democrat Dave Cravens, a small business owner who also serves as Anderson’s fire chief; and Libertarian Greg Noland, another Anderson resident. 

Those other officers

They are important offices, ensuring the election process, promoting best business practices, making the best use of tax dollars and being good stewards of taxpayer money.

Yet offices like Secretary of State, Auditor and Treasurer barely register on the political radar at this time of year, often drowned out by the constant noise coming from U.S. Senate or other high-profile campaigns.

Here is a brief look at the races for those vital but often-forgotten state positions.

Secretary of state

Republicans have dominated the Indiana Secretary of State office. The last Democrat to win was current Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett in 1990.

Connie Lawson, a former state senator and first female GOP Majority Floor Leader, is the incumbent. The Hendricks County native was appointed Secretary of State by then Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2012. She easily won a full term in the 2014 election and is now seeking a second term.

As Indiana’s Chief Elections Officer, she is focused on ensuring the integrity and security of Indiana’s elections. Since taking office, Secretary Lawson has championed sweeping election reforms, and has led the effort to clean Indiana’s voter rolls. 

During her time in the Senate, Lawson championed legislation to create vote centers, which centralize and simplify the voting process. Currently, 35 of the 92 Indiana counties – including Henry County – use vote centers. 

Lawson is being challenged by Democrat Jim Harper and Libertarian Mark W. Rutherford.

Harper is a 35-year-old Valparaiso attorney. Rutherford is also a lawyer, working in Indianapolis. He is a Carmel High School graduate.

Auditor

Tera Klutz, as Auditor of State, is the chief financial officer for the State of Indiana. She has four primary duties including accounting for all state funds; overseeing and disbursing county, city, town, and school tax distributions; paying the state’s bills and paying state employees. The Auditor of State is the Administrator of the State of Indiana Deferred Compensation Plan known as Hoosier S.T.A.R.T.

Klutz was appointed by Gov. Eric Holcomb in January 2017 to serve as the 57th state auditor and is the first certified public accountant (CPA) to hold the statewide, separately elected office.

She is being opposed by Democrat Joselyn Whitticker, a Marion resident with 35 years experience as a teacher and administrator. Also on the ballot is Libertarian John Schick, a Porter County businessman who also ran for the office in 2014.

Treasurer

As the incumbent Indiana treasurer, Republican Kelly Mitchell is the Chief Investment Officer for the State of Indiana. She is responsible for the safe management of approximately five to seven billion Hoosier tax dollars on a daily basis.

A former Cass County Commissioner, Mitchell is completing her first term in office.

She is being opposed by Democrat John C. Aguilera, who is running on the theme “join us to break one-party rule in Indiana.” A former state representative, Aguilera now runs his own business. His grandmother was one of the first Mexican restaurant owners in Indiana and also worked in the steel mills during Word War II, someone Aguilera called one of the first, “Rosie the Riveters” in our nation.