by Sarah Einselen
— Indiana’s newly redrawn District 25, which now includes Cass County, will see 10-year state Rep. Don Lehe, R-Brookston, challenged by 22-year-old Wabash College graduate Shane Evans in Tuesday’s election.
Lehe, who has represented District 15 from 2002 until now, is running in the new District 25 since redistricting placed his White County hometown within its boundaries.
One of Indiana’s biggest strengths is its fiscal policy, Lehe said, and he wants to keep it strong.
“I hope people in District 25 will recognize how Indiana, for example, has a triple-A credit rating for the first time ever, which is beneficial to public agencies, schools and communities when they go to borrow money,” he said. “And you get that triple-A credit rating by being very fiscally sound.”
The current fiscal climate has made Indiana one of the top five states most attractive to businesses, he added, so businesses are interested in coming to the state — and bringing jobs.
Evans, a Delphi native, is running on the Democratic ticket. He wants to see more bipartisan cooperation take place in the state House of Representatives.
“The legislature tends to take a lot longer in Indiana to effect change,” Evans said, “and when they do, it seems to be more extreme to one side or the other.”
Partisanship is “a huge deal,” he added, so he wants to “try to work across the aisle.”
While Lehe said the biggest focus for him, if elected, will be helping draft the biannual state budget, Evans emphasized offering alternative college credit to students and reforming the state’s standardized tests.
“I think if we find a more simplified method of testing students in their abilities in at least the core curriculum, it would make a more efficient system,” Evans said.
The current test for elementary and middle schools, ISTEP, should be more “statistically significant,” he added, and the new reliance on test scores for teacher evaluations means fewer teachers are willing to turn their classrooms over to student teachers.
Lehe emphasized that he will likely be one of just two farmers in the House of Representatives. Bill Friend, incumbent representative for District 23, is the other.
“I have the business experience with the farming and agricultural interests,” Lehe said. “I think that’s of interest to me and I identify with the small rural communities.”
He said 18 years of school board experience had given him insight to address education issues, too.
Evans graduated this spring with a chemistry degree and a minor in Spanish. He’s currently studying part-time through Indiana University’s School of Law.
“I think my age is an advantage because I have a lot of ambition, a lot of energy coming into it,” Evans said. And though he has yet to have a full-time job, he worked two part-time jobs most of the way through college.
Evans is also running his campaign on individual donations only, he said. According to his pre-election campaign finance report filed Oct. 19, he’s raised just $900 since the primary, compared to about $17,600 reported on Lehe’s pre-election filing.
“I want to do what’s best for the citizens of District 25,” Evans said. “I’ve stayed away from special interest money and union money and PAC money… so they don’t have influence in my votes. So I can think only of the people.”
• Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151.