By Jeannine Lee Lake, Good News
1) Why are you seeking a return to public office after a 2-year absence and why in the position of state representative?
Public service has been an important part of my life from the time my parents taught me that voting was the duty of every citizen. That lesson was expanded as a teenager when I heard President Kennedy say in his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” I am passionate about serving my community and my state in whatever way I can. Over the past two years many people - some complete strangers - have told me they admired my work as a senator and urged me to run for public office again. When my precinct was added to House District 34 last spring, a door opened and I decided to run. Having been a state Senator, I know how to help at the state level to build a partnership for progress and I will do all I can to help our community make the climb toward the top economically and educationally.
2) As a Muncie resident who has been out of the public arena for the last year, what are some of the concerns you see with regards to the economy and job growth here?
I stayed active in the public arena because Muncie and most of Indiana struggle with the interrelated threats of unemployment, underemployment, and undercutting public education. We must act to ensure good jobs and high quality education. I can fight for these life essentials as a private citizen but I can do even more as a state representative to fight for the great needs of our community every day.
3) How have your previous elected offices, as well as your other jobs, prepared you to represent District 34?
My work as a teacher taught me the importance of education. My work for women’s rights and Planned Parenthood taught me how to be a leader. My involvement in community organizations taught me how to work with all kinds of people to get things done to improve the community. My term on the Delaware County Council taught me about taxes and budgets. As a State Senator I learned to form relationships with colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both houses of the legislature to get legislation passed. I also learned how to cut through red tape when constituents need help getting state services like food stamps and Medicaid. These are the experiences and skills that have prepared me to work effectively for the citizens of District 34.
4) How do you differ from the other two Democrats in the primary, David Walker and Karen Branch?
I am the only candidate with the experience to hit the ground running. Having served in the Senate, I have already formed relationships with other legislators and know how to get things done in the legislative arena.
5) Were you surprised that Right-to-Work passed? What does this mean for Hoosier jobs?
This issue is an example of why elections matter. It passed because the Governor, and the Republican House and Senate majorities wanted it. If Democrats had held the majority in just one of the two houses of the legislature, it would not have passed. Senator Simpson expressed very well its meaning for Hoosier jobs when she called Right to Work a race to the bottom. This attack on the right of workers to bargain collectively will have a negative effect on wages, benefits and working conditions for all workers, not just those in union jobs.
6) The black community seems to have been in your corner as far as precinct support. Why do you feel you connect with minority issues and concerns?
I’ve always been very comfortable in the Black community and that’s why, without a second thought, I selected Carl Kizer to chair my last Senate campaign and my current House campaign. My parents taught me at an early age to judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. I also understand that jobs and education are colorblind issues that affect the minority community more than any other because of the high rate of unemployment of minority youth. Finally, I have always been about breaking down barriers that keep people from getting ahead.
7) There has been a lot of discussion recently about how to effectively grade the public education system. What are your thoughts concerning equality in doing so?
Most people agree that educational excellence for Hoosier children is a very high priority, the disagreement comes with how to do it. You’ve brought up one example. Despite unanimous opposition at its only public hearing on the issue, the state board of education recently voted to use a Bell Curve to grade public schools. This plan means no matter how much improvement a school might make, if it’s in the bottom third of schools in the state it would get a failing grade and become a candidate for state takeover. This is unfair to the schools, to their students and their communities. Instead of undercutting public schools, we need better support for public schools. When public school students are supported, they excel. There is no better example than Longfellow. Look what that school is accomplishing with it’s great principal, outstanding teachers, MCS encouragement, and support from the leaders of the community.
8) If elected, how would you work with local politicians here right now considering there seems to be such schisms in Republicans and Democrats, and also factions within those individual parties?
My view is that once elected, I am a public servant of all the people, regardless of their party or faction within a party. I will do my best to respond to the concerns of all my constituents. I will be accessible as I have always been, listen to their views, answer their questions, weigh the pros and cons of the issues, and treat everyone with courtesy and respect.
9) If elected, what are some upcoming legislative issues you could see yourself supporting?
My top priorities are jobs, retraining, and education. They are the basics and they work together. The jobs of today often require retraining of our workers. The jobs of tomorrow depend on the education of our children today. If our public schools march upward, so will our economy and so will our children and older learners too. My goal in running for Dist. 34 is to bring more good-paying jobs and improvement to public schools here, and if successful in the election, I promise tireless hard effort for public policy that will promote a more prosperous, better-educated district and state.
10) How do you plan to campaign and keep your integrity in the primary - in other words - how do you plan to campaign without going negative?
I will always maintain my integrity at all times and at all cost. I believe in the power of ideas and plan to keep my campaign focused on the issues that will move Indiana forward. While some people go negative because they think that’s what it takes to win, I believe negativity keeps voters away from the polls because it feeds into the belief that good people don’t run for office. When that happens, democracy loses.