Prior to 2017, I had no political experience in terms of campaigns or Party affiliations. I advocated for issues I was passionate about, including marriage equality and veterans’ rights. Then in March 2017, I was offered a leadership role with Indivisible Indiana District 2, a local organization promoting justice, equality, and inclusion in our community. I accepted the position as director of Campaign Recruitment and Support. I began a listening tour across northwestern Indiana, sitting down with people who did not vote and candidates who had run and lost. I learned that our community is deeply demoralized. Many people feel that their voice does not matter and that the ballot lacks good options.
I decided to run for office because I want to give voters in District 11 a choice. The Indiana State House has countless career politicians that have been in office for decades. They are out of touch with the needs of the people they serve, which results in legislation that only benefits large corporations and special interests. The solution to this problem is to elect everyday people, including local organizers with a community-based approach. I am a firm believer in leading by example. My hope is that this race will inspire other to get involved in our political process, whether that is voting for the first time or deciding to run for office. If we do not engage, our government will never truly represent the people. My goal is to represent and inspire the people of District 11.
Through my experience of growing up in underserved communities, I have to come to realize that there is almost no escaping poverty or prison without a quality education. Too many communities are facing substance abuse, poverty, gang violence, unemployment and high drop-out rates. To solve many of these problems and give young people a pathway to opportunity and success, we need a strong public education system.
My exposure to the local public education system is through one of my children. Due to the lack of school resources, my child who also needs accommodations was placed in kindergarten for half-days. My child simultaneously received speech and occupational therapy 3 days a week while experiencing disciplinary issues requiring our attention 3-5 days a week at school. Like many parents trying to secure a bright future for their challenged children, our schedule was and still is demanding. Unless you are fortunate enough to be able to take time off of work multiple days a week to interact with your child’s teacher, it is virtually impossible to ensure your child gets an adequate education, especially if your child has special needs. I have spoken with many parents who have given up on the system.
By continuing to divert resources away from public education, legislators in the Indiana State House are contributing to the source of these problems. When they choose to ignore our public education system year after year, they are failing our children and families. Unfortunately, the Indiana legislature only measures success in its ability to cut taxes and maintain a budget surplus. This short-sighted governing strategy will have long-term social and economic consequences for future generations.
As a State Senator, I promise to fight for adequate funding for public education and to ensure accountability beyond standardized testing. Public schools should cultivate critical thinking skills and intellectual virtues such as curiosity, honesty, and courage. Additionally, I firmly believe that parental involvement is crucial to the success of students. I promise to work with parents and teachers at the local level to determine the best path forward for public education policies.
Growing up in a family who enjoyed spending time in the Southern California mountains, desert, ocean and lake areas, I developed an appreciation for protecting our natural resources. One of the reasons we moved to the Michiana area was to enjoy the beautiful forests, lakes, streams and river environments. As a family, we try to keep our children physically active by allowing them to explore many of these areas.
As a parent, I worry about environmental hazards to which my children may be exposed. With the current Administration’s goal of dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the job of protecting our natural resources is being left up to the states. Unfortunately, Indiana has extremely lax environmental regulations that fail to hold companies accountable for pollution, which puts our children at risk. Between Elkhart and St. Joseph counties, we have 10 EPA Superfund sites areas designated as so contaminated as to require mandatory cleanup of hazardous materials. Most of them are located in District 11, which means that soil, groundwater, and air contamination is widespread.
Our current legislators have shown their disregard for the environment and public health. For example, they have irresponsibly allowed the utility companies to dictate the legislative agenda at the expense of energy freedom, good paying jobs in wind and solar energy, and most importantly, the health and future of our children. As a State Senator, I promise to work tirelessly to protect our environment and resources. I will make decisions that benefit our community, rather than special interests.
I grew up in Catholic schools where I was taught that every single person is a valuable member of our community. We were instilled with the belief that nothing was more important than standing up for others in need through social justice advocacy. As a Catholic lay leader in the Navy, I had the opportunity to work with and counsel numerous shipmates. We had people from different countries, races, sexual orientations, and backgrounds, and I was surprised to hear how many of them did not feel represented. Some of these servicemen were members of the LGBTQ community who were being targeted by the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. After listening to their stories, I felt compelled to work toward social justice and representation for all.
Coming from a multiracial family, I have seen how people I love are treated differently in society. I believe that each member of our community should feel that they are treated with fairness and respect. More recently, however, our country has been moving in a direction away from equality. Even if some are not actively encouraging discrimination, our silence perpetuates injustice by enabling those who are. I truly believe that treating all people with dignity and respect should not be a partisan issue, which is why I organized a Solidarity Rally in South Bend after the disturbing events in Charlottesville. Everyone should feel safe and valued in their community.
The greatest thing we produce as Americans is our ability to think outside the box and to innovate. Yet we experience a “brain drain” in our area. When I talk to young people in District 11, they often express frustration with our community’s inability to be more inclusive. Many have shared with me that they will ultimately move out of the area because it feels socially restricted. If we want our young people to remain in the area, and we want to attract corporations looking for fresh young talent, we must work towards building a more inclusive community. Elected officials in the Indiana State House spend a large amount of time passing unconstitutional, divisive bills that enable discrimination. As a State Senator, I will make passing a hate crimes bill one of my top legislative priorities.
As a Navy veteran that has worked with disabled veterans, I’m not sure how we can continue to say that marijuana has no accepted medical use. From veterans dealing with PTSD to cancer patients going through chemotherapy, we know that marijuana can be successfully used to treat a wide range of health issues. Considering the opioid crisis we are facing, marijuana could be an alternative treatment for chronic pain, but right now federal law prohibits medical research involving marijuana.
I believe that the legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational use should be decided at the federal level because the current patchwork of state laws conflicting with federal law is unsustainable. In the meantime, while we wait for Congress to act on marijuana, I believe that legalizing marijuana for medical use is a step in the right direction for Indiana.
If elected, I would outline my medical marijuana policy as follows:
Leadership is about listening to others and recognizing their strengths so that together we can formulate the best plan of action. Too many people in Indiana feel disengaged from their government because career politicians fail to listen or represent them. I firmly believe that an elected official should actually represent the people, not just the Party or special interests. As a State Senator, I promise to actively seek input from local families and maintain an open-door policy. I want you to feel welcome to come and talk about issues important to you and your loved ones.