Republican Tim Neese wants a sixth term representing the 48th District in the Indiana House. Another Republican, Jerry Brewton, hopes to take the seat away from Neese. Since the winner faces no Democratic opposition in November, this one’s for all the marbles.
What’s a voter to do?
Brewton, who owns an Elkhart insurance agency, served eight years on the Concord School Board in the 1990s. An energetic, warm and approachable figure, he offers impressive insight into private business and the state education system.
Neese served on the Elkhart City Council before winning a seat in the General Assembly. While he did little to distinguish himself until his fifth term, he mastered the legislative process, dependably represented the views of his conservative district and provided unsurpassed constituent service.
He finally blossomed this session when he authored House Enrolled Act 1269, creating the Indiana Health Compact. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the bill into law, thus making it possible — if Congress approves — for the state to set up its own alternative to the Affordable Care Act.
So once again, what’s a voter to do?
Brewton, on first glance, offers a fresh start in District 48. But that’s not necessarily the case. He’s tied closely to State Rep. Wes Culver, serving as Culver’s campaign manager in 2008, and Culver donated $10,000 to Brewton’s campaign in April.
If Wes Culver’s former campaign manager is running for a House seat, voters don’t get a newcomer, they get a second version of Wes Culver. That can be a plus or a minus, depending on your political preferences, but it blunts the potential advantage of voting for the challenger in this race.
Brewton has also shown a tendency to revise certain positions as Election Day nears. During an April interview with an Elkhart Truth reporter, Brewton said he opposed a 2010 state law allowing workers to bring guns to work if they’re locked in vehicles. Brewton said the law infringed on the rights of business owners. He later followed up, explaining that he’d misspoken. Brewton said he was weighing an employer’s right to stop workers from carrying guns into a business.
“In my head I was thinking inside a building,” he wrote.
During an April 19 interview, Brewton also said he was “torn” on a statewide smoking ban. In a follow-up email, he came down strongly against a ban as government intrusion.
It’s a little late in the game to find a candidate backtracking on issues passed by previous General Assemblies. And, although everyone’s mind wanders, it’s troubling that Brewton didn’t hear or understand the gun question when it came up in a phone interview with a reporter; the stakes in Indianapolis are much greater.
Neese may not be spectacular, but he’s accumulated valuable seniority, rising to chairman of the Local Government Committee. A freshman wouldn’t be able to build that kind of clout for years.
Clout is one thing, but courage is another. Neese showed courage when he opposed a popular school voucher bill that puts private institutions at risk of state interference, a vote that demonstrated a healthy skepticism of big government.
Randall Weinley of Bristol is also on the Republican ballot, but he’s an underfunded candidate who was difficult to reach and showed a limited grasp of the issues. So the choice is between Brewton and Neese.
We endorse Neese.