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Newcomer takes on tall odds in House race

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McCORDSVILLE — A McCordsville man is challenging Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma for the 88th District seat in the state Legislature.

While he acknowledges that running against one of the most powerful lawmakers in the state is an uphill battle, Democrat Brandon Perry, 32, has several ideas he’d like to bring to the Statehouse.

“The first reason (I’m running) is to make sure the voters of District 88 have a choice,” Perry said. “I believe in a democracy, and no incumbent should have a free ride to re-election.”

Perry also says he wants to make sure every resident in the district, which includes part of Hancock County, is represented and heard.

Meanwhile, Bosma says he’s pleased with the progress the state has made in recent years on budgeting and economic growth, and he’s looking forward to serving the new district.

Political lines for the state Legislature were recently redrawn, and Hancock County was divided into three districts to be represented by three different representatives in the Statehouse. While most of the county is still in House District 53 represented by Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, the western half of Sugar Creek Township is in House District 57.

House District 88 spans the northeastern part of Marion County, the southeastern tip of Madison County and the northwestern portion of Hancock County. Buck Creek and Vernon townships are in the district.

Perry has lived in McCordsville about six years. He is single and a lifelong Hoosier; born in Evansville, he has also lived in Indianapolis and Lawrence.

Perry recalls becoming interested in politics with a fourth-grade field trip to the Statehouse. While Perry chuckles that his peers were bewildered at his enthusiasm, his excitement in politics grew.

Perry is a journalist. He is the senior reporter for the Indianapolis Recorder and is editor of its affiliate, the Indiana Minority Business Magazine. He says as a journalist for 12 years, he has been able to learn about issues from unemployment, education, law enforcement and government. He’s covered the state Legislature and has several ideas he’d like to bring to government.

Specific pieces of legislation he would propose if elected include providing financial literacy courses for high school students so teens can learn how to manage money. He would also like to allow taxpayers to vote on how the state should use surplus money.

Another idea would be to make it illegal for employers to research a person’s credit score when deciding whether to hire them. Perry said he would also initiate a job fair specific to the district to help employers and the unemployed connect.

Previously a Republican, Perry says he switched parties in 2004. He says he related more to the Democratic Party as the party of progress and diversity and one that stands for working families.

Perry was slated to the ballot in July by the state Democratic Party. He was not on the ballot in the primary election, but state law allows parties to slate candidates to the ballot in case of vacancies in the primary.

“I’m under no illusion that Hancock County is predominantly Republican and most of the registered voters are Republican,” Perry said. “But I would ask my Republican friends to consider voting for me. I consider myself a moderate that’s willing to work across party lines and move Indiana forward.”

While he hasn’t been involved in the county’s Democratic Party, he has volunteered in campaigns, and he’s been using the Internet to spread the word about this race. He also began knocking on doors about two weeks ago.

Perry questions whether the district lines were redrawn in Bosma’s favor.

Bosma had a role in the map-making process. But he says the new district lines moved away from Fishers because residents there wanted a representative from their own community.

“District 88 had to go somewhere and it either had to go to Madison County or Hancock County, and it wasn’t drawn specifically for me,” said Bosma, who lives in Marion County about a mile from the Hancock County line. “I grew up just a step out of Hancock County and live just a step out of Hancock County.”

Bosma said he’s looking forward to representing part of Hancock County, and has already been getting to know residents and officials here.

Bosma, 54, is an attorney and was first elected to the state Legislature in 1986, following the footsteps of his father. He is married and has two grown children.

He has had leadership positions in the House for nearly two decades, having served as Republican leader in 2000 and assistant leader the six years prior. Republicans have been in the majority only twice since 2000, but Bosma served as speaker for the 2005-06 session and again for the 2011-12 session.

Bosma’s focus for the upcoming two-year term includes continuing with “budget integrity and fiscal responsibility that my team has brought to state government.” He points out that the budget was balanced with no tax increases.

He also wants to focus on job creation. While he says other states are envious of Indiana’s job creation environment, more can be done to put Hoosiers to work. That includes focusing on technical and vocational education, and making sure high school graduates have the skills they need to enter the workforce.

Bosma’s third priority is funding early-childhood education.

“Now that we’ve completed making kindergarten available to every Hoosier family tuition-free, it’s time to take the next step and look at pre-kindergarten programs,” he said.

The last few years, the environment in the House has been divisive, particularly over the so-called right- to-work legislation. House Democrats walked out for five weeks in 2011 and joined similar but shorter protests in this year’s session.

Perry said he agreed with the walkout to an extent. He said he was against the legislation that stripped collective bargaining rights of unions, but acknowledged the walkout hurt the chances of other legislation making it through the session.

“I was against the right-to-work legislation and I felt the Democrats should have walked out,” he said. “The main thing I would have done differently had I been a member of the Democratic Party is, I would have encouraged the leadership to not make it last so long.”

But Bosma, one of the main proponents of the law, said companies have come to Indiana or have considered locating here because of right-to-work.

“It is resulting in high-paid jobs coming to Indiana, just as we had anticipated,” Bosma said.

While Perry says he can work across party lines with his moderate, common-sense approach, Bosma also hopes the next two years in the Legislature won’t be as contentious with a change in Democratic leadership. House Democratic Leader B. Patrick Bauer, who led the boycotts, stepped down after the 2012 session.

“It is my hope that the leadership on the Democratic side will be willing to reach across the aisle and play well with others,” Bosma said. “It’s my sincere hope there will be a fresh look from their side of the aisle, and we’ll be able to work with those willing to do so. And I’ve pledged to that.”

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