Chamber to host candidate classes in October

Thinking of running for elected office? The Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce wants to help.
Posted on Sept. 12, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Sept. 12, 2013 at 7:02 p.m.

ELKHART — Want to learn about running for elected office without first dipping your toe into the public water?

Worried about finances or official procedures or — gasp — skeletons?

The Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce wants to help.

The chamber will host two candidate classes on Oct. 10 and 12.

The event will be non-partisan and chamber officials received support from both parties in organizing the program, said Trevor Wendzonka, director of communications for the chamber.

The classes will include a night session on Oct. 10 and a day-long session on Saturday, Oct. 12.

The sessions are open to all individuals interested in seeking any elected office during the coming years.

Speakers will discuss various aspects, including organizing, messaging, marketing, mobilizing, fundraising and winning.

Tickets are $50 per person and $25 for an accompanying ticket. To register go to the chamber website at elkhart.org or call 293-1531.

Chamber president Kyle Hannon said it’s the first time he can recall the chamber ever trying to do such an event.

While Hannon said there is some concern that some people might be turned off at the notion of running in the 2015 municipal elections after a year or so of hard-nosed politics in Elkhart that has included more than one shouting match and plenty of political sniping.

“Some people say, ‘Why would I get into this,’ and I understand that,” Hannon said.

“We’d like to make sure that good people are encouraged to run,” he said.

On the other hand, Hannon, said the chamber is not necessarily concerned about the current make-up of city council or personalities.

Hannon, who has run for political office more than once — including a successful city council bid — said he believes one of the biggest misconceptions in running for elected office is that past personal issues will surface in a campaign.

Most people have imperfect track records in their personal life and, Hannon said, there’s normally very little willingness among opponents to sling mud.

Hannon said he also believes people don’t understand the intricacies and reasons for raising money. Aside from using it to cover campaign expenses, fundraising also sends a message.

“It’s not necessarily to build a bank account, but to show you have support,” he said.

Elections in Indiana happen three out of every four years in different levels of government.

Next year, there are a variety of races for county, township and school boards plus some state races. In 2015, municipal elections will be in the spotlight.

Hannon said he believes area voters will have two key races in the next two years when they choose a mayor for Elkhart and Goshen and the state house seat being vacated by Tim Neese at the end of 2014.

Neese’s General Assembly seat in District 48 is considered relatively safe and that the winner could end up holding it for quite a while.

Neese announced recently his decision to run for Elkhart mayor.

Speaker lineup

Speakers participating in the non-partisan candidate school include:

Ÿ Elizabeth Bennion, an IUSB political science professor, WNIT-TV host and campus director of the American Democracy Project

Ÿ Republican Carol McDowell and Democrat Arvis Dawson, who each have served in office and worked on many successful campaigns

Ÿ Jack Colwell, a hall-of-fame journalist with the South Bend Tribune and Howey Political Report

Ÿ Shane Frost, senior strategist with Strawberry Fields Marketing Agency in Elkhart

Ÿ Matt Lentsch, a veteran political consultant and former chairman of the St. Joseph County Republican Party

Ÿ Mike Yoder, who is serving his third term as Elkhart County commissioner.

Ÿ Christopher Anderson, chief deputy clerk who is a de facto member of the Elkhart County Election Board.

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