RICH JAMES: Some things are best left in voters' hands

2014-05-04T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Some things are best left in voters' handsBy Rich James
May 04, 2014 12:00 am  • 

I wish Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller were on the ballot Tuesday. This guy’s got to go.

Zoeller this week said he supports what some call a “soft repeal” of the 17th Amendment.

What he wants is to take away the rights of Hoosiers to nominate candidates for the U.S. Senate.

The 17th Amendment, which was adopted in 1913, calls for the popular election of U.S. senators but doesn’t speak to how candidates should be nominated.

Prior to 1913, each state’s senators were elected by state legislators.

Although Zoeller would like to see full repeal of the 17th Amendment, which is something Tea Party supporters covet, he stopped short of that.

What Zoeller wants to do is little more than another Republican attack on voting rights.

Zoeller argues that if a senator had to come back to the state Legislature each six years for nomination, he or she wouldn’t vote for anything in Washington that angered his state legislators — or at least the party in control.

In other words, according to Zoeller, Indiana legislators know better than the general population who should be nominated to compete in the general election.

If that doesn’t bother you, I suggest you make an appointment with your family physician.

Would you want a General Assembly that is hell-bent on destroying public education, opposed to women’s rights, against organized labor and supportive of guns on school property deciding who we send to the U.S. Senate?

If Zoeller’s proposal still doesn’t make you squirm, I suggest you head to the nearest emergency room.

It’s not just Zoeller. Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he’s all for taking power away from the voters.

Zoeller isn’t the first Republican who has proposed major changes in how Hoosiers elect their leaders.

I witnessed something just as egregious during my first year of covering the Legislature.

Since the beginning of time, Hoosiers nominated their gubernatorial candidates in party conventions. That archaic approach was changed to primary elections in 1976.

In 1979, prior to the 1980 governor election, Senate President Martin K. “Chip” Edwards carried a bill to return the nomination to the party convention. He knew he could win the GOP gubernatorial nomination in convention, but not a primary.

Edwards was a piece of work. He wore $500 suits, snake skin boots and a $25 toupee.

After getting his bill through the Senate, I watched him testify in a House committee.

Chairman Richard Mangus took lengthy testimony and then adjourned the hearing without calling for a vote.

Edwards erupted, hollering, “You promised me a vote.”

A couple years later he was in prison on a public corruption conviction. Upon release, he got a job pumping gas on Lake Maxinkuckee.

Although the system isn’t perfect, some things are best left in the hands of the voters.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at The opinions are the writer’s.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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