On the face of it, there are five Indiana House and Senate races on the ballot Tuesday in Lake and Porter counties. Really, though, there are only three districts involved.
With longtime Sen. Sue Landske retiring, Senate District 6 is up for grabs. And with Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, looking to join the Senate, House District 11 is an open seat, too.
Senate District 6 - R
Niemeyer faces Chris Shepherd in this race.
Niemeyer hasn't served in the General Assembly long, but he has a long history in local government. His experience at the township, county and state level will be useful in understanding the downstream impact of public policy crafted at the state level.
"I think we've done a lot with small business the last few years," Niemeyer said. He wants to be cautious about additional changes, especially eliminating the personal property tax.
"When we shift one tax to another, we're going to hurt somebody else," Niemeyer said.
Shepherd says some of the right things, including the need to invest in infrastructure to facilitate the movement of goods and people, but he's a bit of an ideologue.
"I'm running to shrink government and expand and protect personal liberty," he declared.
Trouble is, expanding one person's personal liberty often comes at the expense of another person. That's not an easy balance to reach.
Shepherd is eager and capable, but he requires some seasoning. Niemeyer has served well in the House.
We endorse Niemeyer for the Republican nomination.
Senate District 6 - D
Lon Childress faces Newton County Commissioner Roxanna Hanford in this race.
Childress said his first legislation would involve infrastructure, to help put people to work. Good answer.
But Hanford's answer was good, too. She is concerned about domestic violence and said efforts are "way underfunded."
Childress, who was on the Tri-Creek School Board, understands education issues. But Hanford does, too. She noted Indiana's poor ranking on education factors but said dumping Common Core wasn't the way to improve education.
Both candidates want the South Shore to go to Lowell, but Hanford sees beyond Lowell, noting Newton County has become a bedroom community.
Hanford understands better than Childress what impact state actions have on local government in Indiana.
We endorse Hanford.
House District 11 - R
Whoever wins the nomination, his name will be Michael. Michael Aylesworth is running against Michael Mears.
Aylesworth has been in public service for 40 years, in one capacity or another.
His long history of public service in Porter County and with state government, as a political appointee, has given him a broad perspective.
We endorse Aylesworth.
House District 11 - D
Phillip Kuiper is running against James Metro, who declined an interview.
Kuiper, a Lowell Town Council member, was recruited to run by the House Democratic leadership. We can see why.
Kuiper supports extending South Shore passenger rail service to Lowell. Not everyone sees the benefits the trains will bring, though.
"I don't think it's the train, per se," Kuiper said. "I think it's that they're not planning for the train."
That's very perceptive, and Indiana needs more state legislators with that mind-set.
Kuiper describes himself as "a very conservative Democrat."
"Faith, family, and after that comes everything else," Kuiper said.
We endorse Kuiper.
House District 19 - R
Chris Retson and Julie Olthoff are both relative newcomers to the political arena. Olthoff has served on the Merrillville Plan Commission and the Lake County Economic Alliance.
Both candidates support improving public transportation. Retson wants to copy Valparaiso's leadership with bus service. Olthoff sees the lack of public transportation is impeding economic development in Lake County by restricting the free flow of available labor.
One thing Olthoff said stood out. She wants to hold public forums in the district.
"I want to listen to people," she said. That's important.
Olthoff has economic development experience and savvy that could prove useful in the House of Representatives.
We endorse Olthoff.