Discover more from Based in Lafayette, Indiana
Takeaways from a House District 26 debate
Including: Rep. Campbell hasn’t met with WL mayor for four years? Dennis answers. Plus, waiting on motive in Purdue homicide. Retired Indiana Supreme Court justice awaits Fairfield ouster case
Thanks to today’s Based in Lafayette sponsor, Purdue University, which presents the next in the Presidential Lecture Series, featuring Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. President Mitch Daniels will host Noonan in a Q&A format at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, in Fowler Hall at Purdue’s Stewart Center. Admission is free.
TAKEAWAYS FROM A HOUSE DISTRICT 26 DEBATE
Is state Rep. Chris Campbell, a Democrat in Indiana House District 26, out of touch with local leaders from the opposite party while she’s been at the Statehouse, representing the West Lafayette-based district?
That’s been a key point in Republican challenger Fred Duttlinger’s campaign, since he entered the race shortly after the May primary. It came up in his campaign kickoff this summer on the patio at Nine Irish Brothers. And it surfaced again in a debate aired live Wednesday night from the WBAA studios at Purdue.
Asked about how each would navigate a Republican supermajority landscape over the next two years, Duttlinger promised a willingness “to reach across the aisles” and dropped this:
“Unfortunately, for the past four years, as far as bipartisanship goes, I haven't seen a lot of that from Rep. Campbell. And we kind of see that locally, as well, in the fact that she hasn't even chosen to meet with our local mayor, Republican (West Lafayette) Mayor (John) Dennis in the four years in office, simply because there's an R by his name. So all of this change is going to have to happen with a bipartisanship approach.”
Campbell rejected that idea.
“I would say that’s completely false. In fact, while I'm down there, oftentimes I will text Mayor Dennis and say, ‘I need somebody to look at this bill,’ and he'll get back to me. And so we have a great relationship. And I, of course, know him from my service on the (West Lafayette) Redevelopment Commission. I think that the media captures a lot of negativity. It creates drama. And it really creates a false sense of what's really going on down at the Statehouse.”
OK, so what does the mayor say?
Asked about that later, Dennis didn’t dispute Duttlinger’s point, but he didn’t dog on Campbell, either. Instead, Dennis called his relationship and meetings with Campbell “very casual.”
“Because of our proximity, and with both of us out at so many events, I bump into her enough that I don’t have to set up an appointment, I guess you could say,” Dennis said. “If I have something on my mind, I approach her. That’s the thing about local politics, you just run into each other, whether than in the office or that’s at the grocery store.”
Wednesday’s debate likely will be the only one between Campbell, seeking her third two-year term, and Duttlinger. It likely will be the only formal debate between candidates in the seven General Assembly districts that include pieces of Tippecanoe County.
Three of those seats –Senate District 22, Ron Alting; House District 13, Sharon Negele; and House District 38, Heath VanNatter – are uncontested. The other four featured candidates who either couldn’t agree on a debate format or had one candidate who simply refused to debate.
Here are a few takeaways from the 35-minute House District 26 debate between Campbell, an audiologist who was elected to the General Assembly in 2018, and Duttlinger, an Army combat veteran and assistant director of civic literacy at Purdue.
On abortion: What’s their take on Senate Bill 1’s near-total ban on abortion? And what, if any, follow-up legislation would they consider?
Duttlinger said he didn’t support Senate Bill 1, as it was approved. “It wasn't constituent driven,” Duttlinger said. “It was very much just the product of a few senators, who put in their personal beliefs. And that was missed. That's not the political system that we want. It's not the way that District 26 wanted to go, as well.” He said the General Assembly did not do enough to help women, especially in rural areas, who need prenatal care, to address Indiana’s infant mortality rate and more funds to support women and their families continuing pregnancies to birth.
Campbell voted against SB1. “It is really horrible for Indiana,” Campbell said. “We do have the third highest maternal mortality rates in the country. That is expected to increase. … We have the seventh highest infant mortality rates. That's expected to increase. This really didn't take into account all of the infrastructure that's missing, that would help women not need abortions, give them more access to contraceptives. We tried to get amendments through expanding the ability for pharmacists to be able to prescribe and dispense contraceptives. I had an amendment calling for medically accurate, age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education, which is another way to decrease those unwanted teen pregnancies. So, we have a lot of work to do.”
On schools: In 2022, the General Assembly dealt with several bills that would have given the state more control over what happens in classrooms and curriculum, and particularly with divisive subjects dealing with race and other topics. Do you think that those bills went too far? Did they not go far enough?
Campbell: “Well, I think we're talking about critical race theory. The teachers were very concerned. I think many felt very concerned about how history would be represented in schools. … It was obviously a very politically divisive bill. And it was meant to be, just as we saw in some of the other bills that were intended to do that. They cause confusion and that polarization.”
Duttlinger: “When it comes to the teachers (and) our educational systems, our district is blessed to have some of the best schools in the entire nation and the state,” Duttlinger said. “I believe in local control. I believe that some of the areas the state did overstep its bounds when it came to directing what is going to be best for our district. And it may be what's best for us may not be what's best for a different school system. Local communities have the right and the control in order to determine how their community is going to function, how they want to be represented. … Parents want and need to have that say in what is going on in their classrooms, just as much as the teachers do. With the teachers, it's just not overburdening them with more and more trainings that they have to do and more regulation. Let them teach.”
On marijuana: Should it be legalized in Indiana? And to what extent?
Duttlinger: “That's (a question) that is a national one and it's a local one, all at the same time. As far as the legalization, there are certain medical benefits that come from the use. There are. You see that in the military, when looking at certain PTSD treatments, things of that nature. … As to which level? It’d come to, What does District 26 want to see, what do the constituents want to see, when it comes to possible legalization?” Duttlinger said he’d want to make sure legislation was backed up by medical and scientific data, backed by researching other states that have passed laws ranging from medical use to recreational use.
Campbell: “I actually have asked this question every year on my survey, and it has overwhelming support to be legalized. We are the 13th last state in the country to legalize cannabis. And there are a lot of benefits. … We do know a lot about cannabis and the benefits that it offers people. And since it has been passed in so many states, we will be so much more prepared when it does get legalized.”
On guns: Last session, the legislature passed permitless concealed carry for handguns. Do you agree with that decision? And what do you think in the next two years are reasonable steps to take for loosening or tightening gun laws?
Campbell voted against doing away with handgun permit requirements. “Our constituents did not want that, our state did not want that,” Campbell said. “Less than 20% of voters wanted permitless gun carry. We had just every level of law enforcement showing up, pleading not to pass this legislation and how it would negatively impact their ability to identify people that are in possession of weapons that they will encounter. … We've heard a lot from constituents, and they don't feel more safe in our community, knowing that weapons are so available and out there and the fact that we can't identify who's legally eligible to carry those weapons versus those people that are carrying weapons illegally. People don't feel safe. With the school shootings, there has been a lot of concern that's been brought up.
Duttlinger: “The way that was passed, it went against our law enforcement, went against a lot of constituents’ beliefs in District 26. I wouldn’t have been able to vote for it as it was written. Then addressing, Why? Why is this the big issue when it comes to this idea of freedom – certain people feel threatened and things of that nature.” Duttlinger said since there’s no longer a requirement for a concealed carry permit, the state should offer more opportunities for gun safety courses for handling of guns and storage at home.
FOR MORE: Here’s audio from full debate, via WBAA.
BALLOTS, VOTER REGISTRATION, ETC.: Who will be on your ballot? Are you registered to vote? If not, how can you register to vote? (The deadline is Oct. 11.) That and more, available at Indiana’s voter portal, Indianavoters.in.gov.
EARLY VOTING STARTS OCT. 12: For a list of early voting sites in Tippecanoe County ahead of the Nov. 8 election, I had the list in this week. Find it here.
HOMICIDE ON CAMPUS: UPDATES
Thursday brought no charges or initial court hearings for Ji Min “Jimmy” Sha, a 22-year-old Purdue junior arrested Wednesday morning in connection with the stabbing death of Verun Chheda, his McCutcheon Hall roommate on campus.
Purdue officials offered no updates Thursday into the motive or other basic facts laid out hours after campus police said Sha, a junior from South Korea, called 911 at 12:44 a.m. Wednesday to report that Chheda, 20, a data science major from Indianapolis, was dead. Sha was arrested minutes later, Purdue Police Chief Lesley Wiete said. (For more, this is from Wednesday: “Hundreds of Purdue students join vigil after ‘unprovoked and senseless’ homicide.”)
Here were a few reads from Thursday:
Several outlets spoke to friends of Chheda who said the Purdue senior could be heard screaming while online gaming and talking over the social platform Discord. NBC had this report late Wednesday night with one account. The Purdue Exponent reported that it had obtained Discord screenshots that showed conversations about hearing screams while gaming with Chheda. A day earlier, Wiete said that there could be witnesses to the crime but that they hadn’t been in the room where the stabbing happened. And WTHR reporter Lauren Kostiuk spoke with Andrew Wu, a friend of Chheda’s during their high school days at Park Tudor in Indianapolis, who was online gaming with Chheda when he heard the screams. Kostiuk had more here.
Purdue Exponent reporter Kimberlyn Vasil had this piece from residence hall advisers about dealing with a horrifying moment in the dorms. Here it is
Chheda’s family set visitation times for Sunday in Indianapolis. From his obituary, which detailed his love for science and his family: “His parents were the luckiest and blessed to have him as a son. He was the most caring and protective brother who played tricks galore and was his sister’s biggest champion. … He enjoyed the simple things in life and never sought out attention or praise for his accomplishments.” Here’s the full obituary.
JUDGE’S ORDER: RETIRED INDIANA SUPREME COURT JUSTICE TO DECIDE WHETHER FAIRFIELD TRUSTEE STAYS OR GOES
Let that soak in for a second: Steven David, who until August was an Indiana Supreme Court justice, will be the one who makes the final call on whether Fairfield Township Trustee Taletha Coles is allowed to ride out the final months of her term or leave just shy of four years in office.
On Wednesday, Tippecanoe Circuit Judge Sean Persin denied Coles’ request for a change of venue, moving the case outside Tippecanoe County, where accusations of the trustee’s spending sprees and management of the office have made headlines for more than a year. But Persin, as he suggested he might in a court hearing Tuesday, agreed to bring in a special judge for a two-hour hearing, starting at 1 p.m. Oct. 19.
David, who retired from the state’s high court, is now taking cases as a senior judge.
The Oct. 19 hearing likely will be the final stop in an effort to oust Coles from office. The Fairfield Township Board, the Tippecanoe County commissioners and the Tippecanoe County Council each vote unanimously in a process that started in July.
The case is the first of its kind since the General Assembly wrote a law that gave parameters to remove a township trustee from office. Coles is accused of neglecting duties of the office and using township funds for personal use.
Thanks again to today’s Based in Lafayette sponsor, Purdue University and its Presidential Lecture Series, featuring Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, in Fowler Hall at Purdue’s Stewart Center.
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