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October 23, 2012

Freshman lawmaker makes jump to statewide ticket

Democrats criticize candidate's stance on social issues

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS —

Those were the very issues that appealed to the conservative Pence. But they’re also the issues that made Democrats howl in protest.

Democrats have labeled Ellspermann a tea party idealogue, who along with Pence, is focused on a “divisive social agenda.”

Ellspermann takes exception to that description. Asked what she wants voters to know about her, she talks about her engineering and management experience with General Motors, Michelin and Frito-Lay, and her 20 years as a consultant, specializing in team problem-solving.

“I really come from a problem-solving background, that’s what I’ve spent my entire career doing, …” Ellspermann said. “It really is about finding the best solutions to problems -- and problems aren’t Democrat or Republican.”

That message won over voters in Ellspermann’s Democrat-heavy home district back in 2010, said Kathy Tretter, editor of the Ferdinand News.

“Hers was quite possibly the cleanest, most sincere campaign in the entire state,” Tretter said.

It turned out to be smart politics, but Ellspermann said she couldn’t have done it differently. “I have four daughters,” she said, of the blended family she shares with her husband, high school administrator Jim Mehling. “I knew they’d be watching me.”

If elected, Ellspermann said, she’ll work to create an atmosphere in state government where ideas of all kinds can be talked about more openly and “without fear of repercussion.”  

It’s ambitious, she knows. “Public life doesn’t create a very safe environment for legislators or public servants of any kind to think outside of the box or at least think out loud about solutions that are outside the norm,” Ellspemann said. “I think that’s unfortunate.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com

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