Alternative school instructor emphasizes his conservative beliefs in House race

Jesse Bohannon, one of three Republicans seeking the post, is running for public office for the first time.

Posted on April 2, 2014 at 11:07 p.m.

Editor's note: This is the second of three stories on the hopefuls for the District 48 seat in the Indiana House. A profile of Doug Miller ran previously (look here) and another is coming on Adam Bujalski.

ELKHART — He variously calls himself a "very strong conservative," a "Christian Libertarian" and a "progressive Libertarian."

However you cut it, District 48 Indiana House hopeful Jesse Bohannon, a Republican, puts himself in the conservative camp. He's for low taxes, minimal government regulation and tight-fisted spending. He worries about the federal government encroaching on state powers and, more broadly, too much government of any sort.

More about Jesse Bohannon
Occupation: Leadership coordinator at The Crossing Education Center.
Age: 34
Political background: A Republican, this is his first bid for office.
Roots, education: He grew up in Bremen and has lived in Elkhart County since 2009. He's a graduate of Bethel College, Mishawaka.
Family, more: He's single and his Christian faith is very important to him. He's affiliated with the Missionary Church.

"I believe in the free market," Bohannon said. "The more government tries to make good things happen, the more they muddy the water."

He’s passionate about education, being an instructor at The Crossing Education Center, an alternative school geared to high-school-aged students not cut out for public schools.

God looms large for Bohannon and seems to be the starting point for his belief system. “That’s fundamental. My belief in God underscores everything else,” Bohannon said.

He’s also a strong pro-life advocate, accepting of abortion only when the life of the mother is at stake. “That’s the most important thing, I think, because everything starts there,” he said.

Bohannon is one of three Republicans seeking the District 48 spot, which covers northwestern Elkhart County, including northern Elkhart and Bristol. The 34-year-old Elkhart area man is making his first bid for office, hoping to succeed Tim Neese, the six-term Republican incumbent, who isn’t seeking re-election. No Democrats are running, so the winner of the GOP primary May 6 will be in the driver’s seat heading to the November general election.


Bohannon seems passionate on most topics. Perhaps because of his work at The Crossing, the passion seems particularly strong in education.

He favors educational vouchers, granting state funds to parents to fund their kids’ education at private schools. The state’s limited program, though, should be expanded, little by little, with the per capita state educational funding for each child following the student, in its entirety, to their school, whether public, private or at home.

“We wouldn’t want to do that all at once,” he said. But “I would think our ultimate goal would be to have school choice for everyone.”

He envisions development of a range of schools targeting specific niches — kids interested in arts-, science- or vocation-based education — and schools geared to specific teaching styles.


Education isn't the only thing, though, and here's what he thinks on other issues.

States' rights: Federal government's powers are limited, and it's up to the states to assert control over those powers not specifically granted to Washington, D.C. He's running "because I think it's time for state government to start taking its responsibility more seriously."

Similarly, individual states ought to have more leeway to set policy and craft laws as they see fit, without the guiding hand of Washington, D.C.

"If California wants to have ... marriage for men and women and men marrying men and women marrying women, I'm OK with letting California do that. Let us do what we do here in Indiana and let's leave each other alone on those sort of things," he said. "The more powerful Washington becomes, the more divisive our policy becomes."

No to excessive government interference: There's "way too much" surveillance of U.S. citizens, he said, and he thinks people "have a fundamental right to privacy and to be free from government intimidation."

Related to that, he expressed reservations with government mandating such things as seat-belt use in automobiles. Seat-belt use may be sensible, but it's not government's role to protect individuals from themselves. "Let's focus on things that are a little more important than that," he said.

Same-sex marriage: He wishes House Joint Resolution 3 had retained a provision that would've prohibited civil unions, along with defining marriage in the Indiana Constitution as the union of one man and one woman.

The civil union prohibition, though, was ultimately removed in the state legislative session earlier this year. In the absence of an alternative, Bohannon said he would vote for HJR-3, which would have the effect of prohibiting same-sex marriage in Indiana. The measure is set to come before lawmakers in 2015 or 2016, and if they approve it, it would go to voters on the November 2016 ballot for final consideration.

Marriage is a covenant between a man, a woman and God, Bohannon said, and he would prefer that government steer clear of the issue. On the other hand, he worries of other advocates using legislation "to normalize marriages of all types."

Families headed by a male-female couple are "the prototype. That's what makes families successful, that's what makes society successful," he said. "It's the fundamental building block of our society."

Taxes: He'd favor doing away entirely with the business property tax, as sought by Gov. Mike Pence. Lawmakers in the last session approved a more limited measure that gives individual counties leeway to make limited cuts.

Bohannon would even favor elimination of property taxes over the long haul, or at least debate on the matter. "If someone truly owns their property, they shouldn't have to pay rent on it to the government," he said.

That said, he doesn't necessarily see property taxes getting axed any time soon, mindful of the likely resulting hike in income or sales taxes.

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack or visit him on Facebook.


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