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Hedde challenges VanNatter

By AARON KENNEDY and KAT CALABRO - news@ftimes.com

In the race for State Representative of District 38, Democrat Tom Hedde is challenging Republican incumbent Heath VanNatter, who has represented the district since 2010 when he ran unopposed in the general election.

“I’m running for reelection for the same reasons I ran eight years ago,” VanNatter said. “I’m a pro-life Christian conservative, an advocate for the second amendment and pro-business. I want to continue to lower taxes and ease regulations on small and large businesses so we can bring jobs to Indiana.”

Hedde, a teacher at Rossville Middle/High School, says that he has spent the last year-and-a-half listening to people in the District 38 and learning what their priorities are when it comes to state government.

“Being a teacher, education is going to be right up there on my agenda,” Hedde said. “Jobs and livable wages are things that really need to be worked on here in Indiana. People want equal pay and equal benefits. They want tax incentives for the middle class. Governor Holcomb called for finally passing some kind of hate crimes bill. When it does pass, it needs to cover enough.

“There are a whole lot of things I am looking at, including a competitive businesses climate,” he added. “I do have a conservative twist in me as far as that goes. I am very interested in main street business. The (opioid crisis) is something that needs to be addressed. And the Department of Child Services is underfunded, understaffed and overworked. Unfortunately, it is the kids who are losing.”

Hedde is opposed to Indiana’s current school voucher system.

“We need to do something about the teacher shortage, and I don’t think the state should be funding two school systems,” he said. “That is what we are leaning toward. There is $153 million going to be spent on vouchers next year, which takes away from public schools. If they use them, they should have the same requirements, academic and financial, as any other public school.”

VanNatter says that the teacher shortage is being addressed through a program of student loan forgiveness.

“We are funding schools at the highest level they have ever been funded at. They make up 60 percent of our state budget,” VanNatter said. “There is a teacher shortage going on, and we passed a bill to help alleviate that for kids going into college to make a commitment to go into the teaching industry that student loans can be forgiven and to try to combat the teacher shortage.”

Hedde is among Democrats who believe that existing district borders could be drawn in a more non-partisan and common-sense manner.

“I think it should be a non-partisan group doing the redistricting,” Hedde said. “Right now, the Republicans are in control of it, but the Democrats did the same thing with gerrymandering when they had control. It is just not the right thing to do. I (would) serve part of four counties and a little of the City of Kokomo. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. It would make more sense to me (for a district to be) Carroll and Cass or something like that. It needs to be better than it has been in a long time.”

VanNatter defends the current district borders.

“My opponent, the Democrats, have made it a big issue, but it’s the way we’ve been doing it forever,” VanNatter said. “Indiana was ranked the second-best legislative maps in the country in the 2011 maps we drew. They’ve held up in court.”

Both candidates say that legal medical marijuana in Indiana is a possibility if it is done carefully.

“That’s still up in the air,” VanNatter said. “It’s not an issue we’ve dealt with. It went to summer study committee, and they have no recommendation one way or the other. I’m not opposed to it, but I certainly want to see what kind of protections they have to make sure it doesn’t get abused.”

“If there is a true medical purpose, I see no problem with it whatsoever,” Hedde said.

Both candidates also shared their opinion on the possibility of passing a hate crimes bill.

“I want to see what the actual language says,” VanNatter said. “Judges already have the ability to enhance the penalty if they choose to. They can enhance the penalty on hate crimes, so the bill is kind of redundancy because we basically already have that, but I’m not going oppose or say I support it until I see what it says. Judges do have the ability to enhance that penalty on their own.”

“They say the judge already has the power to add exceptions if it is a hate crime,” Hedde said. “The problem with that is that they don’t really have to put into their report and investigate it as a hate crime, so the judge will not always have what he needs to (pursue) that.”

In closing, Hedde says that he appreciates all the support he has received from people in Clinton County.

“Make sure you get out to vote on or before Tuesday,” Hedde said. “I really look forward to going to the statehouse and actually working for the constituents in this area and the whole state. I will not be taking money from big-time lobbyists and corporations because that influences votes. I will listen to them, but I won’t be in their back pocket.”

VanNatter hopes voters continue to support his work for District 38.

“I’m a proud Christian conservative, and I feel like I’ve done a good job representing Hoosiers,” he said. “I have a great relationship with the (Frankfort) Mayor and Chief of Police, councilmen and (Clinton County) commissioners. I’d love for everyone to support me again this election.”