Chesterton Tribune



Democrats Ben Blohm and Deb Porter seek nomination in State House race

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In the primary election on Tuesday, June 2, Democrats Ben Blohm and Debora “Deb” Porter will seek their party’s nomination to the 4th District seat in the Indiana House.

The Chesterton Tribune invited both to participate in a candidate questionnaire. Word limits were set and the Tribune reserved the right to edit for length.

(1) Age, place of residence, occupation.

Blohm: 34; Valparaiso; operations manager, The Grossbauer Group.

Porter: 61; Valparaiso; public school teacher.

(2) Why are you seeking election to the 4th District seat in the Indiana House? (75 words)

Blohm: I attended Chesterton High School where I learned about government from my teacher and State Representative Ralph Ayres. Ralph was someone I respected deeply so I have always held the office of State Representative highly. I have enjoyed growing up here, but things have changed. Our public schools are underfunded and over-tested, our workforce is being undermined, and our healthcare services are being attacked. I’m running to serve my community and put things right.

Porter: I am seeking election because Rep. Ed Soliday does not represent my concerns nor my profession in the Indiana legislature. He votes against the bills I ask him to support and for the bills I ask him to oppose. In my opinion his voting record has hurt our public schools, our environment, and local employment. He has not voted in ways that improve our state’s infant mortality and maternal mortality rates, and so on.

(3) Describe your qualifications for office (100).

Blohm: I have spent my life serving our community. I learned the value of leadership and service in the Boy Scouts, earning the rank of Eagle Scout in Troop 908. I studied Political Science and Criminal Justice at Indiana University and since then I’ve built experience working in small business. I am currently a member of the Valparaiso Fire Protection Board, Chair of the young professionals board of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater NWI, and volunteer at the Westchester Township History Museum and Hilltop Food Pantry. I am someone who shows up, works hard, and listens.

Porter: This is the second time I have sought this office. Most recently, I served four years on the Valparaiso City Common Council where we worked with city budget and issues where state law and budget intersected with or steered the conversation of how city budget and decisions had to be made. I also served as my Association President for 10+ years where we bargained contracts, worked through school budgets, lobbied the state for significant issues in public education and education policy. This is very important since education is slightly more than half of the state’s total budget.

(4) Differentiate yourself from your opponent and indicate why you believe yourself to be a better candidate (100 words).

Blohm: As a member of a younger generation than my opponent, it’s time for my generation to step up and lead. Our government and community will benefit from new ideas and new energy. As a candidate who has not held elected office before, I am free of any entanglements and can focus on what’s best for our community. My over 10 years of experience working in small business has given me extensive experience managing finances and budgets and executing projects.

Porter: The biggest difference between me and my primary opponent is experience. As a public school teacher for 30+ years I have taught both when public funding was near the highest and the lowest levels. I teach in the district with the highest poverty levels in Porter County, so I know first-hand the effect that budget cuts have in districts where the community may not have the ability to fund a referendum. As a union leader, I have the background in bargaining union contracts and I understand the role organized labor has in the economic strength of our state

(5) What are the key issues in the race? (150 words)

Blohm: We are facing many challenges that need to be addressed. First, we need to strengthen public education by repealing laws that divert money from public schools, pay our teachers and staff fairly, and reduce our reliance on standardized testing. Next, we need to make healthcare more affordable by improving the Healthy Indiana Plan, lowering the cost of prescription medication, and expanding access to mental health and prenatal care. Third, we need to protect our environment to ensure our water and air are clean and our lakeshore is restored. Finally, we need to support quality jobs by repealing “right to work” laws that weaken unions, raising the minimum wage, and supporting small businesses through expanding state grants.

Porter: The key issues are the effects of Covid-19 on our state. As we come out of the stay-at-home orders, looking at record unemployment, our state will be wrestling with massive shortfalls in sales tax revenue and most likely property tax revenue as well. This will affect every aspect of our economy, state-funded services, and many day-to-day activities. What will the court system look like? How will our schools re-open and what will we do about funding them when our sales tax revenue is down? We will also be confronted with new demands on infrastructure: sanitizing public spaces will be the new expectation--how will that be funded? Students who may be doing some or all e-Learning from home will need Internet services--how will the state help provide that across the state so all kids have access?

(6) How comfortable are you with Gov. Holcomb’s phased-in plan to re-open the economy? (75 words)

Blohm: I certainly want our people to get their jobs back and our local businesses to thrive. I know how difficult it is right now. However, Governor Holcomb was too aggressive with his plan to lessen restrictions. Because of his plan, the projected number of COVID-19-related deaths in Indiana increased by over 500 percent. We can save lives and still protect our economy if we take a more measured approach to re-opening our state.

Porter: I am glad to see we have a phased in plan. I hope that it is monitored carefully and rolled back if we start to spike. Every plan is only as good as the implementation and the willingness of everyone to follow the plan. One change I would make would be to require masks in public spaces, at least in the early phases of opening things up.

(7) On what single issue do you believe bipartisanship to be vital to the future of the State of Indiana? (75 words)

Blohm: The opportunity for bipartisanship is important on every issue, but supporting public education is the most vital for Indiana. It’s been proven time and again every Hoosier benefits from a strong education. With healthy support we keep our critical teachers which is the foundation of a student’s success and provide a full multifaceted staff to serve our children. Ultimately, this will give our kids the best opportunities possible in whatever career and life they choose.

Porter: When it comes to making Indiana a safe, healthy place for all people to live, all legislators should be able to come together and make good decisions without taking positions of partisanship. We have places where drinking water is not safe, where air-quality is a daily concern, where contaminated soil has caused cancer clusters. Hoosier infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are in the Top 10 and Top 5 in the nation.


Posted 5/21/2020




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