The Indiana House District 15 race offers two good candidates — Democrat Tom O'Donnell and Republican Hal Slager.
O'Donnell is a pragmatist who was a rebel on the Lake County Council. He's fiscally responsible, in line with the blue dog Democrats' philosophy.
Attorney O'Donnell, who handles a lot of family law cases, said the problems at the Department of Child Services show government can't be run like a business. Social services are different, as the IBM lawsuit over welfare privatization has shown, he said.
Slager pointed to the use of school vouchers as improving education — a practice O'Donnell disagrees with.
"This is social justice," Slager said.
"We have lots of good teachers," Slager said, but Indiana can do better in the way education is delivered.
O'Donnell took a jab at Republicans over the new right-to-work law. "There are some very angry operating engineers right now because they feel hoodwinked," O'Donnell said. When Gov. Mitch Daniels campaigned for office, he said he wouldn't push for right-to-work legislation.
That's a point worth noting, because Slager and O'Donnell are in a tug-of-war not just for this seat, but also for Democrats' prospects in the House in the next session.
Slager got bitten by the legislative bug when he began making trips to the Statehouse on behalf of the Schererville Town Council, he said.
"I don't think Lake County is taken as seriously as it should be" because the county's legislative delegation can't get together on the issues, Slager said.
O'Donnell noted the ties between House Speaker Brian Bosma and Slager.
"Look, I'm friends with Brian Bosma for 30 years," Slager said.
If Slager is elected, he would have Bosma's ear. But that could also give the Republicans a supermajority and diminish the Democrats' ability to have meaningful input into the legislative process.
O'Donnell said that if he's elected, he would get to work right away to promote bipartisanship and civility and to repair relationships. Those are important tasks.
In this race, both candidates are good, and the district would be well served by either Slager or O'Donnell. The question of the balance of power in the House, however, is a contributing factor in our decision.
Lake County, of all places, should know the value of a strong two-party system.
We endorse O'Donnell.