BLUE RIVER TOWNSHIP – Voters in Indiana House District 54, which includes Blue River Township in Hancock County, will have their pick of candidates when voting in the 2022 election. So far, six candidates have declared that they will run for the seat – five Republicans and one Democrat, all women.
The seat will be up for grabs due to the forthcoming retirement of Rep. Tom Saunders, a Republican who has served since 1996. Thanks to 2020 redistricting, a portion of Hancock County is included in the district for the first time.
On the Republican side, the candidates include a Henry County commissioner, Bobbi Plummer, and council member, Betsy Mills, as well as several political newcomers.
Plummer said Saunders has been a great representative for the district with a strong focus on constituent services.
“We need someone who will step into his seat with the same attitude,” she said.
Plummer said she would like to see the state do more for small businesses and for remote workers, as well as positioning itself to handle the economic growth that’s coming in the future.
Amid a crowded field of candidates, Plummer said she hopes her experience as a small-business owner for more than 20 years as well as her track record in local government will help her stand out from the pack. She said she would bring common sense and practicality to the role.
“I’m going to do what’s best for the district, not what’s best for me or anyone else in Indianapolis,” she said.
Council member Mills is a communication instructor who teaches remotely at Pennsylvania State University, along with serving as the Henry County Republican Party vice chair. Mills, a Henry County native, says her remote job would have allowed her to live anywhere, but she chose to come back to central Indiana.
“I’m really invested in our community, and I’m invested in east central Indiana,” she said.
Mills said she was motivated to run for the General Assembly because of the ways she’s seen local governments struggling with funding from the state and with adjusting to high levels of economic development. She said she wants to focus on supporting agriculture, manufacturing, and rural schools, and on bringing “youth, energy and passion” to communities in the district.
“I love Indiana, and I want to continue to make it a great place,” she said.
Other Republican candidates include Heather Carie, Melissa Lapinski Meltzer and Gayla Taylor.
Unlike Plummer and Mills, Taylor said the selling point of her campaign is that she isn’t a politician.
Taylor emphasized some of the culture war issues that have been prominent among conservatives recently as her reasons for running. She said she’s concerned about her sons’ futures as “young white men” and about liberal policies “destroying men, destroying our families.”
“I don’t like what I’m seeing in this country at all,” she said.
On her Twitter account, @Gayla, Taylor has over 9,000 followers and tweets about numerous political issues, including the conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen.
“Conservative values mean a lot to me,” she said.
Melissa Lapinski Meltzer owns a Christian counseling business in Knightstown. As a state representative, she said, faith would be central to her approach to governance on issues like aborition.
“I’m passionate about faith, family and freedom,” she said.
Meltzer said she also would prioritize constitutional carry (the right to own and carry firearms without a license), and “medical freedom,” which she described as allowing people to make their own choices about whether to get a COVID-19 vaccine or wear a mask without being penalized.
Heather Carie, also a Knightstown resident, did not respond to a request for comment. On her Facebook page, Carie frequently shares anti-vaccine materials and misinformation about COVID-19.
On the Democratic side, New Castle resident Nannett Polk has filed to run for the seat. Polk did not respond to a request for comment, but announced on her Facebook page that she will be holding a campaign kickoff event Thursday, Jan. 20, at the Art Association of Henry County from 6-7:30 p.m.