House District 85 Gets a New Representative
The Indiana Statehouse lost a Representative a few weeks ago with the passing of State Representative Phyllis Pond (R-New Haven). Prior to her death she announced her intention to resign from her position representing Indiana House District 85 due to declining health, triggering a caucus to replace her. That caucus is scheduled to take place tonight.
The odds-on favorite to win the vote tonight is Fort Wayne lawyer Casey Cox. He has been very active in Republican politics for some time, serving as student trustee at Indiana University, on the Fort Wayne Planning Commission and as the moderator of the Downtown (Fort Wayne) Republican Club. He got an early start, making the decision to run for state representative before Rep. Pond announced whether she would be running for reelection or not.
His decision to get in the race early and to prepare for the possibility of a caucus from the beginning has put Cox in a strong position compared to his opponents. His only major disadvantage is that he does not come from one of the traditional “power centers” of the district. The main base in the district is New Haven, Rep. Pond’s hometown and where she was a schoolteacher, a large community that borders Fort Wayne directly to the east. As a result of that history there are a number of candidates from New Haven. A quick caucus would clearly benefit Cox.
An issue that has crept into the race has been what is sure to be the signature vote of the upcoming legislation session – allowing Hoosier voters to decide whether traditional marriage should be defined in the Indiana Constitution. A whispering campaign of sorts has spread the word that Cox holds an ambiguous position on the issue. Cox’s early work to network with these caucus voters will more than likely overcome any late efforts, but with the heat that is associated with this issue, anything is possible.
One candidate who may represent a substantial challenge to Cox is former Do-It-Best Corporate Executive Dave Heine. Do-It-Best Corp. is one of the largest privately-held companies in the state of Indiana and is headquartered in New Haven (in spite of its Fort Wayne address). Heine has been in the best position to capitalize on questions about Cox’s position on sending the marriage amendment back to Hoosier voters and if there is anyone who may be able to break into Cox’s early lead, it would most likely be Heine. If Cox doesn’t break a majority on the first or second ballot, look for Heine to gain ground but he’ll need to accumulate votes quickly to avoid stalling out and leaving the door open for another candidate to grab a majority.
The other candidate who got in the race early is real estate broker Denny Worman, who has run against Phyllis Pond in several primaries without success. Both his mother and father have served in the state legislature and his sister has served on the board of East Allen Community Schools. The Worman family is well known throughout east Allen County but Denny has not been able to translate that name recognition into success at the ballot box. It’s not clear he’s made enough headway this time around to change that. However, if no candidate has a clear majority after the first few ballots caucus voters may turn to a familiar name. Worman benefits most from a protracted caucus.
Other candidates in the caucus include Mike Cameron, Ken Knoblauch, John Nichter and Ken Richardson. It is not clear that any of these candidates have had much opportunity to make any headway with caucus voters and are not likely to make a deep run on the ballot.
We’ll bring you the results as we learn them from the caucus tonight.