November 1, 2012

State Rep. race still a go

District 23 challenger still hearing from supporters

by Sarah Einselen

— Incumbent state Rep. Bill Friend, a Republican, will face Democratic challenger Kerry “Worly” Worthington Tuesday for the District 23 seat.

Worthington suspended his campaign for office in mid-September after he was arrested on a charge of dealing cocaine. His campaign’s pre-election financial reports list no donations after that point. However, Worthington said he hears from people every day who want to know if he’s still on the ballot, in order to vote for him.

“Every store I go into, everybody I run into” tells him they’re behind him, Worthington said. “The guy that’s there has been there a long time and they’re tired of what’s been going on at the statehouse.”

Worthington, owner of Worly’s Inn in Logansport, was a two-term city councilman, where working with budgets had prepared him to later run for political office at a higher level.

Friend, Worthington’s opponent, has represented District 23 for two decades. The Macy hog farmer is now the majority floor leader in the House of Representatives.

But he points to his long Statehouse experience as one of the reasons he wants voters to elect him.

“I think I understand those local and state governments,” Friend said. “I think I am reasonably good at constituent work, helping people through the red tape, helping them get directed through the bureaucracy of state government, helping to assist with constituent problems like licenses and permits.”

And though he’s not a native of Cass County, Friend has done business in Logansport and was an original member of the Logansport Memorial Hospital Foundation.

Running against Friend is no easy task, said Cass County Democratic Chariman Paul Ulerick. However, Worthington’s campaign had gained plenty of steam up to the time of the arrest, and Ulerick thought a Democratic win could still be within reach.

“We felt we were neck and neck with him in that race, and any votes that would come north of that 30 (percent) would be a sort of quiet victory,” Ulerick said.

High polling turnout bodes well for Democrats, he added.

Worthington is the only Logansport resident running this year for a state representative’s seat. If he loses, 2013 will be the first time in about half a century that no one from Logansport is in the House.

Former state Sen. Tom Weatherwax was elected as a state representative in 1984 before becoming a senator, and someone from Logansport has been a state representative every term since then. Before Weatherwax, Nelson Becker served from 1972 until 1984, and Harold Mertz represented Logansport before Becker did.

Redistricting this year split Cass County among three districts, so while the area may end up without any native sons in the State House of Representatives, having three different people representing the county’s interests could actually work in residents’ favor, Weatherwax said.

• Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at or 574-732-5151.