Democratic Indiana House hopeful, Morrison of Elkhart, says job creation, education are the big issues
Posted: 10/26/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Tim Vandenack
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Dan Morrison addresses the editorial board at The Elkhart Truth Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard)
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ELKHART — There alongside Dan Morrison’s leather folder, which contains campaign literature and other papers, is a picture of the Empire State Building.
To Morrison, Democratic contender for the District 48 seat in the Indiana House, the story of the skyscraper — built in New York City in just 13 months during the Great Depression — represents the can-do spirit of America. If they could do it then “they ought to be able to do it now,” he says.
He’s not proposing some large infrastructure project, but rather, suggests that the state and the people of Indiana set a big goal and go after it. Job creation is a top concern in light of the still-wobbly economy, and everyone, including himself as state representative if elected, needs to join forces to pursue the goal, to build the figurative Empire State Building.
“We need to bring in companies and recruit them. ... We need to keep doing this until we get it right,” he says.
Recruiting has to be a “team effort,” involving concerned citizens, state leaders and others. He’d pursue the idea of creating some sort of special state committee to delve into the matter.
Morrison, 62, worked many years as a manager in the recreational vehicle industry and now works as a outside consultant to Sears Roebuck and Co., the national retailer. He’s never held elective office before, but his bid for the District 48 seat isn’t his first time in the ring as a candidate.
He unsuccessfully vied in last May’s Democratic primary for Indiana’s 2nd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, ultimately losing to Brendan Mullen, who now faces GOPer Jackie Walorski in the Nov. 6 vote. But he liked the experience and Elkhart County Democrats later slated him to run for the District 48 seat.
He may have lost last in May, “but it reinforced in me the desire to help people,” Morrison said.
Here’s Morrison’s take on some of the issues.
• Jobs/economy: The jobless rate remains too high, but unemployment is easing and “it’s going in the right direction,” he says.
Still, there’s no letting up.
Recruiting companies “should be a top priority.” Parallel to that, Elkhart County, in particular, should look to diversify its economy so it’s no so dependent on the RV sector, a call many officials here have made over the years. That would ease the blow when the RV industry is hit, as it was in the recent recession.
• Education: “That may be even more important than the (jobs issue) because that’s the future of the country,” Morrison says.
The graduation rate in Indiana, he notes gravely, is 79.1 percent, a shade over the national figure, 77.5 percent, and the state should be going after the best teachers available.
That said, he doesn’t necessarily think school funding, a large share of it coming from the state, needs to increase. Maybe it could even be cut a little or maybe the existing funds need to be distributed in a new way.
• Pay equity: Women, on average, make 73 cents to every dollar earned by a man and that inequity needs to be rectified. Laws to assure pay equity are on the book, he says, there just not being enforced. “I think we should definitely spot check that for sure,” Morrison thinks.
• Right to work: When he launched his bid in early June, Morrison said he’d push for repeal of Indiana’s new right-to-work law if elected, said it would be a focus. Now he’s softened his stance.
Indiana didn’t really need the law, he thinks, which prohibits unions from requiring dues of members and which labor groups oppose. But on the other hand it’s not really hurting the state, either. “It’s not a high priority of mine. You know, we already have a good work environment. I don’t think it’s going to make the work environment any better or any worse. It’s a non-factor in the campaign,” he now says.
• Social issues: Lawmakers in recent sessions have mulled hot topics like defining marriage as the union of one man and a women, effectively prohibiting same-sex marriage, and allowing teaching of creationism in public schools. Such matters would be be a “lower priority” for Morrison.
Defining who should or shouldn’t be able to marry should be more a matter of churches, Morrison thinks. A key question in the creationism issue — how extensive would instruction be?
• Gridlock: Generally, he notes a more divisive atmosphere in politics between Democrats and Republicans, which needs to go away. “It’s like the Russians versus the United States instead of being American,” he says. “We have to work together. It’s just good, old-fashioned common sense.”