A Democratic Elkhart City Council member is challenging an incumbent Republican for the District 48 Indiana House seat in the Nov. 3 election.
Aaron Mishler is the Democrat candidate. He was elected to the City Council’s 1st District in August by a party caucus to fill the remaining term of Gerry Roberts, who moved out of the district. Mishler lives in Elkhart and is employed as a registered nurse.
Doug Miller is the incumbent Republican. He was first elected in 2014. He is the managing partner with Tailor Made Homes. He is also owner of Creekside Realty LLC and White Pines Properties and lives in Osolo Township north of Elkhart.
The Goshen News asked the candidates four questions about themselves and their political race. Their answers are:
What are your qualifications, as well as life and work experiences, that will help you perform your duties as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives?
MILLER: My qualifications for public service include owning and operating several successful small businesses providing jobs for Hoosiers. I’ve held leadership positions in local and state home building and Realtor associations. I served on the Board of Zoning Appeals. These shaped an informed perspective on creating communities and quality of life. The broad perspectives gained from information and real-life experiences of Hoosiers help formulate good decisions on public policy today and tomorrow. In addition, I’m a father, married for 45 years and I understand the challenges Hoosiers families face when looking at budgets, health care, education and jobs.
MISHLER: I’m a city councilman in Elkhart’s 1st District in addition to being a registered nurse. I’ve served in the Indiana Army National Guard and Army Reserves as a medic and nurse. I’ve deployed on 10 disaster responses, both nationally and internationally. The values and experiences learned during my past service will be used to serve Indiana’s residents once I am elected to the Statehouse. The lessons learned through military teamwork will be especially important while working across party lines, an occurrence we need more. My time spent nursing in Ebola and COVID wards demonstrate my ability to work under pressure to get the job done. The care and empathy applied as a nurse will be applied when listening to constituents and working to solve the issues. I intend to provide opportunities for my constituents to share their concerns and hopes for their state.
What has the COVID-19 pandemic revealed to you about the laws and structure of state government? Are there any changes you will be asking for during the next General Assembly?
MISHLER: In the year 2020, we should have the capacity for our state government to work safely and remotely if needed. The current practices planned for 2021 are not set in stone, and should include the option for lawmakers to safely vote and debate laws while practicing social distancing. I would push for changes that would work toward creating a comprehensive plan to safely legislate should another pandemic occur. Concerning the laws and structure of the state, we need clarification on the legal authority allowed by the state and local governments in a disaster situation. Let’s work on clarifying the roles and ability of government in a disaster situation.
MILLER: COVID-19 demonstrated that the nation and Indiana can improve on the foundational infrastructure required to a pandemic response. It’s frustrating for Hoosiers that the principles of free market and personal responsibility can be abruptly put on hold. I will be looking at measures encompassing public safety and health, while allowing individual freedoms to be maintained. COVID-19 is unprecedented: Indiana’s five-step plan to normalcy supports the appropriate path protecting public health and safety. I will also work to keep resources available for Hoosiers to meet their needs as the return to the new normal continues.
Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, what do you see as the state’s biggest issue that the Indiana House can help resolve?
MILLER: Through the off-session time, I have been working with other legislators on ways to keep students across the state engaged and in a learning environment as time for schools to open approached. I’m impressed by the commitment teachers and leadership have made with adjusting to the CDC guidelines for interaction, but more importantly the continued dedication from parents to support remote learning. The next generation of Hoosiers is the state’s largest assets. I will continue to work on ways to move forward with the classroom experience, teacher support and the education experience to prepare the next generation for life’s adventure.
MISHLER: Education. Indiana currently faces an exodus of qualified teachers to other states. Our great universities once filled with young Hoosiers wanting to become teachers are seeing fewer and fewer applicants for education degrees. We need to immediately raise wages for our public school teachers, restore their collective bargaining rights and greatly reduce public funds for private and charter schools. Let’s restore financial decision making to the school boards and away from the complicated formula set hundreds of miles away at the Statehouse.
Please tell the voters what initiatives you would undertake in 2021 as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives.
MISHLER: When elected, I plan to immediately push legislation to increase support for our educators and education funding. I will work alongside other legislators from both parties to repeal “Right to work” and strengthen our labor unions. Indiana is one of a handful of states who still have a $7.25 minimum wage, we need to raise that to be competitive with other states, and reduce the need for state services. I plan on pushing legislation that legalizes, regulates and taxes recreational marijuana, with the expungement of non-violent marijuana charges from records. For too long Indiana has remained an island of prohibition in a sea of states with legalized marijuana.
MILLER: In 2021, I will continue to work on “achievable housing”; the Hoosier aspiration is home ownership and I will continue to work on the path that facilitates it. Transparency in health care pricing; in the 2020 session the general assembly set the course for additional work on this and I will be involved. The cost of prescription drugs varies, is expensive especially for struggling families and the aging population. I will work with the health care industry to create a path to pricing transparency and availability. The General Assembly remains committed to fully funding education and I will support those efforts.