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Sen. Rogers will not seek re-election
2016 Indiana General Assembly

Sen. Rogers will not seek re-election

INDIANAPOLIS | One of the most effective state lawmakers to serve Northwest Indiana is preparing to close the books on her 34 years at the Statehouse.

State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, announced Tuesday she will not seek re-election in November to the Senate seat she's held since 1990. Rogers also previously represented the Region in the House for eight years.

"I think 34 years is enough. I certainly have enjoyed my service and I thank my District 3 constituents for supporting me," Rogers said. "Hopefully, I've made life better, for not only them, but for the whole of Indiana."

Rogers is known as "the mother of casino gambling" for her decades of work to establish and preserve gaming in Indiana. Last year, she finally won legislative approval for the state's permanently docked riverboat casinos to relocate on adjacent land.

She accomplished that feat by working across party lines and building a coalition through reasoned arguments and personal relationships, just as Rogers has done throughout her career.

"I like people and I have been able, while I've been here, to set party politics aside and just talk about issues at hand and try to find middle ground," Rogers said.

She was one of just two Democrats to support Gov. Mitch Daniels' 2006 Major Moves plan to lease the Indiana Toll Road to private investors for $3.8 billion.

That decision to work with Republicans helped steer $20 million in state funds for improvements at the Gary/Chicago International Airport and $100 million to the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, which Rogers established alongside former state Rep. Chet Dobis, D-Merrillville.

Prior to and during her legislative tenure, Rogers worked as a teacher for 38 years in the Gary public schools, and education issues have been a top priority for her at the Statehouse.

Through numerous shifts in educational standards, tests and the creation of charter schools and private school vouchers, Rogers has been on the front line of education policy debates — ensuring Northwest Indiana and Hoosiers generally got the best outcome she could muster in a Republican-dominated chamber.

"I think the length of time that you are here adds to the effectiveness you have because people have an opportunity to see how you work, you get a reputation for working with people and so it gets easier as you move along," she said.

Rogers, 81, is planning to become a "snowbird" after she retires, spending winters with her son, grandson and great-grandchildren in Arizona. She also recently celebrated her 60th wedding anniversary. 

"My goal is to reach 100," Rogers said. "Back home I go to the Y. Every day I'm home I do Zumba and Jazzercise. I've been able to keep my weight out of the obese category, so now I'm getting ready to release myself of stress."

Rogers said she will wait until the Feb. 5 filing deadline to decide whether to endorse a potential successor.

Democrat Eddie Melton, a member of the State Board of Education and leader of the Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males, already has announced his interest in replacing Rogers as senator for Gary, Lake Station, New Chicago, Hobart, Merrillville and Crown Point; an idea that she likes.

"I think that he would make an excellent state senator," Rogers said. "I would feel very comfortable with him in my seat."


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