News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Election 2012

May 3, 2012

Indiana House District 46 - Democrat

TERRE HAUTE — Three Democrats are vying to be their party’s nominee for the District 46 seat in the Indiana House of Representatives.

Larry Barker of Ellettsville is the executive director of the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District; James Mann II of Terre Haute is a public high school teacher; and Chuck Toth of Terre Haute serves as business agent and president of the Laborers Local 204.

The winner of the May 8 Democratic Party Primary will run against Republican incumbent Bob Heaton in the General Election this fall. Heaton is unopposed in the Republican Party primary.

Barker, 58, spent 28 years in the military and for the last eight years, he has worked for local government — four years as director of sanitation for the city of Bloomington and more recently, executive director of the Monroe County Solid Waste Management District.

Among his top priorities, Barker says he would work to repeal Right to Work legislation.

Also, Barker is concerned about cuts to public education and said he wants to look for ways to restore those funding levels.

In addition, he wants to make sure “all these taxes we are paying [to the state] are justifiable taxes” and that those dollars “go to the appropriate agency that the law says they were to go to.”

Barker was referring to issues at the Indiana Department of Revenue, in which software problems apparently had caused Indiana to lose track of more than a half-billion in tax dollars.

He said that he wants to be a voice for citizens. If elected, he would like to conduct town meetings and establish offices in several communities in the district and “make our rounds.”

One of his goals, if elected, is to attract “green jobs” to District 46, Barker said. “We need to have the vision to do it,” he said. Examples of green jobs might involve electronic motors, electronic vehicles, wind turbines or solar energy, he said.

Green jobs are highly skilled, long-term, good-paying jobs. “Those jobs are out there,” he said.

If successful, it would help keep college graduates in the area and reduce the so-called “brain drain,” in which college graduates leave the state, he said.

Barker also believes he has the leadership qualities to serve as a state legislator. “I don’t talk over people’s heads. I don’t talk beneath people. I look you in the eye and tell you the issues, and we can come to a compromise that can best serve the needs of the people,” he said.

If elected, he also hopes to represent citizens in fighting escalating utility costs.

Mann says he is running because “I don’t believe District 46 voters are being represented as they should be.”

He wants to be an advocate for working men and women, public schools and senior citizens, he said.

He’s been a classroom teacher for 24 years, a member of the Indiana State Teachers Association, and he’s also officiated for both basketball and baseball, including the high school baseball state finals in 2000. He believes officiating taught him about working with people and developing a sense of fairness.

“I see myself as a public servant. I do not see myself as a politician,” said Mann, a social studies teacher at Terre Haute South Vigo High School.

With the passing of Right to Work legislation, as well as other legislation that will hurt public education, he came to the conclusion, “How can I not run?”

Mann’s priorities include addressing issues of poverty and working to bring good-paying jobs to District 46. Government doesn’t create jobs, he said, but it can help create an environment and incentives that help attract business and industry.

Improving educational attainment levels goes hand-in-hand with that, he said. “The more skills people have, the more marketable they are,” he said.

Mann opposes Right to Work legislation and believes it will lower wages for working men and women. While it will be difficult to repeal, “What we need to do is blunt the effects of it,” he said.

He also opposes private school vouchers and says that charter schools “may have value in some locations,” but somebody “has to convince me about the value of it.”

Public schools in District 46 do a good job educating young people, Mann said. “They do not need to have dollars taken from them to go somewhere else.”

The Republican-dominated Legislature has enacted many changes affecting public education, and Mann said one of his goals “is for all stakeholders to get information on how it all impacts us.”

Another of his priorities is funding for programs that enable senior citizens to remain in their homes as long as possible.

Other issues of concern relate to infrastructure (roads and bridges) and downsizing of local government.

Toth, business agent and president of the Laborers Local 204, has said he wants to turn back what he sees as an attack on working Hoosiers and public school teachers.

Serving as the District 46 representative “would be an extension of what I do for a living,” helping people find work or assisting them in other ways.

“My experience in life is helping other people,” Toth said. “I think I can bring that as a positive influence to the statehouse.”

He said his desire to serve also has been influenced by his mom, a public school teacher for 32 years, and his dad, who is business manager for Laborers Local 204.

Toth’s priorities include working to repeal Right to Work legislation; bringing good-paying jobs to District 46; assisting veterans with job training and employment;  supporting the CHOICE program, which gives families an option to keep elderly parents at home; and advocating for public education.

The District 46 incumbent and other Republican legislators “don’t know the needs and struggles of their own constituents, everyday working men and women,” Toth said. “I believe that I do. I’m one of them and I work for them every day.”

Right to Work, passed in the recent legislative session, “is horrible for Hoosiers,” he said, describing it as “not right to work — it’s the right to work for less.”

It’s an attack on collective bargaining that will “lower our wages,” he said.

It affects more than union workers, he said. “When our wages go up, everyone’s wages goes up …  When our wages go down, everyone else’s goes down.”

Toth opposes many of the so-called “education reform” measures passed in recent sessions of the Republican-dominated Legislature, including collective bargaining restrictions, private school vouchers and teacher merit pay.

He describes those changes as “extremely unfortunate and I think wrong and I think they need to be undone. They are attacking public school teachers. I’m a proud product of the local public school system.”

These attacks on public schools “are unfounded, unwarranted and hurting our kids and definitely our teachers,” he said.

Repealing Right to Work or legislation that hurts public schools will be difficult and won’t happen overnight, Toth said. “I’m running be because I’m willing to fight to do that.”

District 46 covers half of Vigo and Clay counties and all of Owen County, except one township, as well as a township in Monroe County. Some cities and towns in the district include Riley, Brazil, Center Point, Clay City, Stinesville, Spencer and part of Terre Haute.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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