April 28, 2022

Five Indianapolis Democrats vie for new Indiana Senate seat

The Indiana Statehouse

The Indiana Statehouse

There are five Democratic candidates running for a new Indiana State Senate seat in the upcoming primary election. Senate District 46 was created after a redistricting process last year.  The seat covers the core of Indianapolis and has drawn a lot of Democratic interest.  The candidates all answered the same three questions. Answers have been edited slightly for clarity.

MAP: Senate Districts In Marion County

Kristin Jones is a current Indianapolis City-County Councilor, Ashley Eason is a nonprofit leader, Andrea Hunley is an IPS principal, Karla Lopez Owens is a Marion County Prosecutor's Office community outreach director and Bobby Kern is a paralegal.

The winner will face Republican Evan Shearin in the November election.

Karla Lopez Evans 

Why are you the right person to fill this newly opened seat?
It’s not a question of being the right or right person to fill this seat. I’m running for this seat because of the collapse in the system that has set the Democratic party back to the point where we have a supermajority of GOP at the State House. I’m running to fill this new seat because I want to bring new ideas and a new approach to help the Democratic party grow.

The issues our campaign is elevating transcend any election cycle. I ran for this seat to challenge the corruption and concentration of power that exist in state and local politics. Our campaign is forcing new conversations, challenging the status quo and fighting to make these spaces fair and accessible to underrepresented candidates. I’m running because despite the growth and contributions of immigrants, we have no representation in Indianapolis.

I’m also running because we have no representatives who are speaking about the life and death consequences of poverty, or who are unapologetically standing up for working class people and who will continue putting people first over corporate interests.

As a formerly undocumented immigrant and now a bilingual attorney, I have a diversity of experience having seen things from both sides. I am uniquely situated to represent this district. I’m not here because I’m the right person, I’m here because I’m fighting for immigrants, for Latinos and all working hoosiers, and as a community activist, I’ll continue elevating these voices. 

What are the main issues facing voters in this district?
The main issues voters are facing in this district include trying to keep up with rising costs in rent, groceries and other basic necessities like gas. For this reason, I would focus on raising the minimum wage and fighting for affordable housing. I grew up in poverty. Using my experience and training in the creation of laws, I'd fight to raise the minimum wage and give working class Hoosiers a meaningful opportunity to improve their quality of life.

We are facing a housing crisis and the core of the issue is that people can’t afford housing. Indiana is the worst when it comes to renter’s rights. As experts have noted, our eviction process is fast, cheap and easy. We make evictions a first resort instead of a last resort. I will fight to ensure the rights of tenants facing evictions are not violated by investing in resources like access to legal counsel in their process.

How will you be able to work across the aisle with a GOP majority?
Being in the super-minority is not something new for me. Coming to the U.S. and growing up in Indiana as a Mexican immigrant, I’ve had to learn how to thrive and communicate in spaces where I'm not welcomed and my opinions are not valued.

As a community activist, I’ve spent a good portion of the last 12 years having difficult conversations with elected officials who draft legislation that hurts people in my community, for example anti-immigration legislation Senate Bill 590 and House Bill 1402, which passed in 2011.

I grew up constantly negotiating with people who have different values than me. Whether that was at the state house, in law school or even my own family who voted for Trump. This is just a way of life for me in this country.

Beyond that, I also have a history of working with Republicans around immigration issues.
As a teenager, a group of students and I worked with the late Senator Lugar, since at one point he co-sponsored immigration reform. We were mentored by his staff on how to negotiate with Republican leaders and navigate the republican system of politics.

This past legislative session I’ve had meetings and conversations with Senator Doriot around Senate Bill 138, Eligibility for Resident Tuition. I'm not even in the Statehouse and I'm already working with republicans. I don't judge ppl by the party they represent, I judge them by their intelligence and character and if I can reason with you then, I can work with you. I'm here to negotiate with anyone who will listen. No one else has the experience that I do navigating these spaces.

Andrea Hunley

What makes you the right person to represent District 46?
I am a teacher, mother, small business owner, proven leader and proud Democrat. For 17 years, I have served families as a public school teacher and principal. As a principal, I lead a staff of 50 employees and oversee a $4M budget.

For nearly two decades, I have been doing the work this position calls for day in and day out. I  show up, have difficult conversations, balance a multitude of decisions that require thoughtful reflection and research, and I boldly advocate. I am the only candidate with this level of experience and expertise.

I come to this position with this history of service and leadership in the community: as a teacher, Indianapolis Public Schools principal, board member, and  volunteer. My background as an adopted daughter, mother and Black woman gives me the unique ability to connect  with the diverse needs and interests of the people and in our city. I am ready to lead our state forward.

Since day one,  I have remained steadfast, running to fight for increased minimum wage, small businesses, workforce development, union apprenticeships, fully-funded public schools, and strong, connected neighborhoods with affordable housing.

What are the main issues facing voters in this district?
The biggest concerns I’m hearing from voters right now are  affordable housing, lack of adequate healthcare benefits, cost of PreK, the need to support teachers and schools, and concerns about our infrastructure– roadways, sidewalks, and streetlights.

I have worked with families across Indianapolis for the past 17 years. While it has been powerful knocking on doors and talking with voters, listening to community members and supporting their concerns is a continuation of my daily practice as a teacher, principal,  and volunteer.

How will you be able to work across the aisle with a GOP majority?
With my proven track record of nonpartisan leadership, I have  supported hundreds of families, and led nonprofit boards in a solutions-oriented manner that puts people over politics. I  advocate for a collaborative voice -  standing for improving life for those most in need, understanding both sides and finding common ground.  From increasing the equity in our enrollment system to ensuring we have protections and a welcoming environment for our LGBTQ+ students, staff, and families, I am experienced in advocacy.

A vote for me means you are electing someone who has experience being in hostile, high-stress situations, making difficult decisions,  and also situations of collaboration and shared energy : all of which are what this position calls for.

The majority of the Republicans are coming from smaller cities and rural communities. I am a proud Hoosier. I grew up in Fort Wayne and had teaching experiences in Monroe County and Columbus.  I am confident in my ability to build relationships because I know the communities across our state. I know that at the end of the day we want the same things: our schools to be strong,  our jobs to be  well-paying,  our women and babies to be healthy.

I am confident in my ability to work within the GOP supermajority because of working with individuals and organizations that don’t all come from  the same starting point. But I have a bold voice, I am well-researched, experienced, and have no fear sitting down and finding common ground for a better quality of life in District 46 and our state.

Kristin Jones

Why are you the right person to fill this newly opened district seat?
I am the only candidate running who is a current Democratic elected official with a voting record, and it’s a record I am proud of. I am the only candidate who has been endorsed by the Marion County Democratic Party and am proud to be running on the ticket with Congressman Carson. I am also the only candidate who has been endorsed by the Indiana AFL-CIO, the Indianapolis Professional Firefighters Union Local 416, the American Federation of Teachers and seven other labor organizations. Both my voting record and my accomplishments can be found at kjforindiana.com and it is my hope that voters will take the time to see my record of supporting workers, neighborhoods, and small businesses. I am the right person because I have a record of being hard working, neighborhood focused, and more importantly, I get results!

What are the main issues facing voters in this district?
The top issue that I have heard at the doors of voters between 2012-2022, after talking with literally tens of thousands of Hoosiers is infrastructure. It is hands down the top issue we hear. Almost everyone wants better roads, sidewalks, alleys and safe parks, trails and greenways. When I was elected to the Council, my top priority was being placed on the Public Works Committee because I understood the constituents in my district had been neglected and needed someone to advocate for them.

And that’s exactly what I did. I worked closely with the Department of Public Works to see much needed infrastructure dollars were allocated for our council district. As a 27-year resident of West Indy, I knew our community had put a plan together ten years earlier with a vision of connecting neighborhoods through the West Morris Street revitalization. And I worked with the Administration, Director Parker, our local CDC and the DPW engineers to make it happen.  This month we broke ground on this project that had sat on a shelf for over a decade and will be investing $6.6 Million in the Revitalization of Morris Streetscape from a Capital Improvement Project.

Another neighborhood project that was near and dear to my heart was the development of the Former GM Stamping Plant. My husband, Donny, worked there for 22 years, as did his father and grandfather. That site has sat empty and abandoned after the last autoworker filed out the doors on June 27, 2011. The State of Indiana, the City of Indianapolis, and the Valley Neighborhood worked closely to find a fitting redevelopment. The largest economic development package in the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s history was agreed upon in principle, but the deal hinged upon a large capital investment from the city for infrastructure improvements. I immediately went to work and sponsored  07/12/2021 Proposal No.17 which provided over $135,000,000 for Infrastructure for redevelopment of the Former GM Stamping Plant which passed with full bipartisan support. I broke ground on this project this month alongside Congressman Carson, Governor Holcomb, and Mayor Hogsett. This two-three year redevelopment will extend downtown Indianapolis west of White River and include a large expansion of the White River State Park to the site, while part of the project will be the home of the world headquarters of Elanco’s animal health.

These are just two of the many projects I have sponsored and passed on the City-County Council. Much more needs to be done on the Eastside of Indianapolis to revitalize roads, sidewalks, alleys, improve pedestrian safety, and expand our walking trails. And these improvements should benefit everyone. Our community's lack of transit is one of the reasons I am seeking the Democratic nomination. With the passage of the $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill, Indiana is poised to receive a windfall of federal dollars, and I will call for increased public transportation including the full incorporation of the Blue Line which will serve all of District 46. Improved roads should serve all citizens regardless of car ownership and in fact, all infrastructure improvements should help to better connect us all, and that includes pedestrians. That’s why as a Councilor, I was thrilled to support the passage of Circle City Forward III, Additional Appropriation Totaling $25,000,000 in Greenways and Trails. The funding that I advocated for includes Madison Avenue reconstruction, multi-modal infrastructure, and connectivity to Pleasant Run Trail. This also includes the design and/or construction of nine trail and greenway projects and is a major infusion into connecting each other to our city.

How will you be able to work across the aisle with a GOP majority?
I am the only candidate with the experience who has worked in a bipartisan way to pass legislation.  As a City-County Councilor, I consistently work with my colleagues across the aisle when it comes to sponsoring legislation impacting our neighborhoods’ quality of life, and educating our residents on important topics. For instance, we had a flooding issue in my council district for over ten years that also impacted two other Council Districts – one Republican and the other one Democrat. We worked together because our community needed us to advocate for them and get results, regardless of the politics.  And we did.

When I have important topics that need to be addressed publicly to bring attention to a particular issue, I try to hold a town hall on it and if it is near a council district boundary, I invite that Councilor to join with me no matter the party. There may be a boundary that determines our Council district, but our residents need us to work together for them on issues and the same applies to the state senate. Canvassing our neighborhoods for over a decade has taught me that potholes, sidewalks, road repair and advocating for trails are not partisan issues.

Ashley Eason                       

Why are you the right person to fill this newly opened district seat?  
I’m the right person to represent District 46 because I already have a pretty solid idea about how to be effective in the role.
First, I’m the only candidate with significant professional experience influencing and earning the respect of Republican elected officials at the state level. This is important because as Democrats we don’t have any power in the Indiana General Assembly right now. We need a State Senator who can find win-win solutions today, and I’m the candidate who can do it. In fact, I’ve already done it for a number of neighborhood and advocacy groups who’ve needed help navigating their concerns at a state level.
Second, I’m the only candidate who’s gone toe to toe with Senate Republicans and brought out a 30% increase in Democrat turnout with a fraction of my Republican opponent’s budget. That equated to more than 5,200 new votes. We need that happening all over the state if we are ever going to have the power in the Senate to bring progressive policies to our community.
Finally, voters must remember that being a good Democrat isn’t enough this time. Every single person in this race is a good Democrat. But, we can’t make anyone’s lives better with lonely votes of dissent so long as Right Wing Republicans control the Indiana Statehouse. That’s why we need a State Senator representing Indianapolis who can help build the Indiana Democratic Party local residents need and deserve. We need new leaders in the Senate who won’t shrink back to the status quo, and who will challenge assumptions about who gets to be at the table in politics, elections, and governing. That’s why this race is really about who can help truly build a statewide Democratic party with a vision beyond one race or seat, and focus on a transformative strategy for the next decade. I’ve clearly demonstrated that I am that candidate.
What are the main issues facing voters in this district?   
One of the first steps I took in my campaign was distributing a neighborhood feedback survey to voters across the district. I was thrilled to have so many voters participate and I learned a lot from the results. While there are notable differences across the district, neighbors told us that their key issues of concern are very similar. They include things like improving roads and infrastructure, addressing crime, supporting schools and education, making healthcare more affordable, making public transit more accessible, and ensuring we have good paying jobs available in our community. While each neighborhood has individual nuance, I believe all of us can get behind improving the community for all our neighbors.
The key to representing a diverse cross-section of Indianapolis is connection and communication. I believe most voters are looking for leaders who listen, are responsive, and follow up with them. Ultimately, it’s not that difficult; it just requires consistency. My team and I have been incredibly consistent with voters for the past several months and it shows.
How will you be able to work across the aisle with a GOP majority?       
I feel confident in my abilities to work across the aisle because I have already done this for several years at the state level in a non-partisan fashion. Because of my professional roles over the past decade, I am quite familiar with and respected by many of our Republican leaders, organizations and influencers at the state level. (This is in addition to, of course, many Democrats as well.)
Having the power to pick up the phone, know who to call, and how to get answers quickly for voters is key. And luckily, I can do that from Day 1. (In fact, I’ve already started doing that during the election cycle.) I have a number of Republicans supporting me in my race for senate because they believe I am reasonable, fair, lead with integrity, and do what I say I’m going to do.
There are many issues I would like to address in the Statehouse with my Republican colleagues. I think the overarching theme is really defending and protecting the needs of my neighbors here in Indianapolis. We’ve seen a handful of legislators consistently work against the best interests of our capital city with extreme right-wing policies that either directly harm people, deter investment, or make our city less attractive to the people we desperately need to become Hoosiers by choice. So, I’ll pay particular attention to that kind of egregious legislation while simultaneously working to address the issues that matter most to my neighbors—those I highlighted above.

Bobby Kern

Why are you the right person to fill this new open District seat?
Listen, learn, living, and acting for the people in the 46th District. Unlike my opponents I grew up in this District oh, and I know firsthand everything there is to know about the district. I know about the hardships and the struggles that each and every one faces. Here in the 46th District we have an overwhelming drug addiction sweeping through our streets. We have people who have mental health issues that are not being addressed, the lack of Education oh, lack of good jobs oh, lack of good housing, not allowing parents to be parents and discipline their children as they see fit. The city of Indianapolis is number 1 in violent crime and our children can't even walk the street or even play on the streets. Our roads are full of Chuck holes and everyone is having to buy a new tire or rim or even replace their car. Why? Because the city of Indianapolis or whoever takes care of it refuses to take responsibility. I'm the best person for this job because I hold myself accountable and I'm transparent and I don't sugar coat anything. I tell it like it is. There's no reason to lie about something when it's right in front of you and you as people who are taxpayers can see what's truth and what's a lie. Our government are elected officials must think we're pretty dumb that we don't understand but we do. So I'm ready to act without hesitation and do what I got to do for the people of the 46th District because I grew up here and this is my home oh, these are my people and I love them.

What are the main issues facing voters in this district?
Property taxes are one of the biggest issues for homeowners. After I'm elected oh, my plan is to eliminate property taxes. We are experiencing violent crime on our city streets running rampant, with chuck holes on the streets oh, our children are being taught things in school that they shouldn't even be taught at an early age. I believe that sex education should be taught in the home when they feel like it's time to teach their children about sex and sharing what they believe in what they want. I don't think it's the school's job to make that decision. I also believe we Nita build a mental health facility here in Indianapolis that will help the people with mental illness and drug addiction and get them off the street where they will be safe and drug free. Putting people first and everything else last. Doesn't matter what I want as a politician and it doesn't matter what someone else wants it's matters what the people that live in the district want.

Me being a Democrat does that mean that I will not cross the aisle and meet my Republican friend halfway. My my oath of office will be very important to me and my Allegiance is not to my political party oh, but my allegiance is to the people that I would like to me to be their elected leader and to do the right thing. Does it matter if I'm a Democrat or Republican, all that matters is that I'm an American citizen who's going to do the right thing for the right reason.

How will you be able to work across the aisle with a GOP majority?
I want people to know that my name is Bobby Kern and that yes I am a Democrat. But because I'm a Democrat doesn't mean that I'm not going to do the right thing because my allegiance is not to the Democratic party nor is it to any political party. My allegiance is to my God who I serve and the people that I serve here in Indianapolis in the 46th District for Indiana State Senate.

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