State Senate challenger seeks to bring a new voice

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WARREN PARK — In 2017, when Theresa Bruno suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm, the odds were against her. Only about 50% of people who suffer such events survive, and a majority of those who do have major impairments.

Bruno, however, was able to make a full recovery. She also gained from the experience a passion for making health care more affordable, which she has carried with her into her campaign for the District 28 seat in the Indiana Senate, which is up for election in November. She is challenging incumbent Sen. Mike Crider, who is seeking his third term.

“Health care, health access is very important to me,” Bruno said. “Healthy people make a healthy economy.”

Because she has good insurance, Bruno said, she was able to get everything she needed to recover from her illness, including extensive rehabilitation. She knows that many people in her district — which includes all of Hancock County; a sliver of Marion County, where Bruno lives; and part of Shelby County — would not have been able to get the same care.

“We need to do better, and the people of this district deserve better,” she said.

Bruno, a native of Elkhart, attended Butler University and now lives in Warren Park. There, she is a member of the town council in addition to working as an adjunct history and political science instructor at Ivy Tech Community College, She is raising two sons with her husband.

Bruno said she is running for the Senate to represent the needs she sees in the district, including those she believes are not currently being taken into account by current representatives.

“Senate District 28 needs its voice back,” she said.

Bruno was first elected to the Warren Park Town Council in 2015 and was reelected in 2019. The town, with a population of about 1,500, is in Warren Township in Marion County. Bruno said she’s proud of what she has accomplished as a member, including helping to provide free Narcan supplies and training for local police.

“I’m a leader,” Bruno said. “I get out there and I get things done.”

Her work as an educator, she said, has helped prepare her for work in government, where careful budgeting is a necessity.

“My whole life, I’ve worked in jobs where there was no money,” Bruno said. “You just have to find it and get it done.”

She hasn’t shied from criticizing Crider, the Greenfield Republican who was first elected in 2012 and who now serves as the majority whip in the Senate. Bruno criticized his engagement with her part of the district over the past eight years.

“Crider is hard to get a hold of. He has no social media presence. He doesn’t come to a lot of events, especially here on the east side (of Indianapolis),” Bruno said.

Crider disagreed with that characterization, saying that although he spends much of his time working on legislation, he attends many events in the district, including chamber of commerce gatherings and local government meetings.

“Anybody that invites me, I try to show up,” Crider said.

Bruno said Crider also has not done enough for education in the district, especially in the more urban parts in Indianapolis. As a senator, Bruno would want to focus on shifting school funding away from high-stakes standardized testing and toward other areas of learning. Infrastructure would be another funding priority, she said.

Crider said he has worked hard over the years to pass legislation, some of it controversial, related to issues like mental health and addiction. In the last legislative session, he championed successful bills to require insurance companies to provide evidence they offer equitable costs for mental health treatment and to make it easier for law enforcement to pursue criminal charges of child sexual abuse when the statue of limitations has passed.

“There’s very few legislators that have passed more high-impact legislation than I have over the years,” Crider said.

Crider added that he also holds a monthly breakfast with the superintendents of the school corporations in his district and has always been responsive to their feedback.

Like all candidates, Bruno has had a drastically different campaign in 2020 than her previous runs for office or the campaigns she has volunteered for. Instead of going door-to-door as she has in the past, Bruno has focused on phone banking, often conducting “wellness checks” with the voters she calls to ask them how they are handling the COVID-19 crisis. She was able to help one voter connect with unemployment resources after losing his job.

“We’ve been a resource through the phone and through texting,” Bruno said.

Hancock County voter Mark Rowlands is one person who was impressed by Bruno’s phone call. A registered Republican who has usually voted for Republicans on the presidential level, Rowlands said he would still like to see more political diversity in Hancock County — and more women in office.

“It’s discouraging to me that in Greenfield, there’s not one elected Democrat,” he said. “I think that diversity is critical… I think you vote for the person, and I’ve come to believe that she’s a person that could represent our county’s interests very well.”

As a health care consultant, Bruno’s stance on the issue also spoke to Rowlands.

“There are so many people in our country that the American dream hasn’t hit and health care hasn’t hit,” Rowlands said.

A Democrat in a district traditionally dominated by Republicans, Bruno knows that her campaign is an uphill battle. Crider figures to be a heavy favorite to win a third term. In his two victories, his Democratic opponents were competitive in the Marion County precincts, but he dominated throughout the rest of the district, winning the elections both times with over 60% of the vote.

However, she said, she believes the issues she focuses on are non-partisan. Many voters she has spoken with care more about roads, schools and being able to afford going to the doctor than they do about party labels, she added.

“There are a lot of people in this district who feel left behind,” Bruno said. “They want someone who will wake up every day and think about what they can do for the people of this district.”

Bruno believes she can be that person.

“I will be the district’s champion. Everyone’s champion,” Bruno said.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”The Bruno file” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Age: 41

Party: Democratic

Office sought: Indiana State Senate (District 28)

Political experience: Serving on Warren Park Town Council since 2015

Family: Husband Joe, two sons

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