The teacher versus the businessman
By Rick Yencer
YORKTOWN, IN - The big race for the new Indiana House District 35 where Rep. Jack Lutz, R-Anderson has served for 20 years comes down to his business connections and teacher Melanie Wright and her Democratic political connections in Madison County.
Actually, it is a more singular issues of public education versus business and utility besides a generation that separates Wright who is 40 something and Lutz who is over 65.
Lutz was talking about his new district the other day at a members only lunch with the Muncie Delaware County Chamber of Commerce which now includes portions of Delaware and Madison counties. District 35 had been one of the most gerrymandered districts in the state running from Cicero to Eaton. The district now includes Yorktown, Alexandria, Elwood and other rural areas of the two counties.
Wright, a teacher at Daleville Junior High School, decided to get involved in politics when House Republicans cut $300 million out of public education last year which the Indiana State Teachers Association called throwing school kids under the bus.
And Wright was recruited by fellow educator and Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson who aspires to be the first woman Speaker of the Indiana House. That might take time given Republicans hold a 60-40 majority and the new legislative districts for good for the next decade.
But 2012 will be the first election of the new districts and Wright believes she has a shot and so does mentor Austin who has advised her to spend her time in Madison County. That explains why Wright still has announced her campaign locally despite living in Yorktown with her three dogs.
Wright does have a big name chairing her campaign, none other that Madison County Sheriff Ron Richardson who is a political force in himself. Still the district looks pretty red with Republicans running the mayor's offices in Alexandria and Elwood and the Yorktown Town Council.
Lutz brings his years of business and government experience also as a former Madison County Council member. Everyone in north Anderson his parents who owned Parmer Lutz Furniture which he inherited.
In Statehouse leadership for years, Lutz chairs the powerful House Utilities and Energy Committee and is a darling to big utilities and business. That and the House Republican Campaign Committee supply him plenty of dollars allowing easy re-election in recent years. And Lutz is all about jobs and economic development. He was the first to announce the new TeleServices Direct call center last month that was in Austin's back yard.
Obviously, the two differ on Right to Work and Lutz was part of the Republican majority that pushed the measure through for Gov. Mitch Daniels to sign. Wright deplores it and anything that costs a public school teacher and public education more money. House Republicans have won the war against ISTA backed candidates in recent years and with Republican Congressman Mike Pence running for governor, Democrats will find it tough even looking at a 50-50 split in the House like it was when Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg was House speaker 15 years ago.