Letter: Time for change in House District 58

To the editor:

The phrase “once in a blue moon” is meant to describe a rare occurrence. However, if you are a voter in Johnson County, keep your eyes out for surprise on your ballot this election day.

There, if you are fortunate enough to live in Indiana House District 58, you will see on your ballot something far, far rarer than a blue moon. You’ll see a contested race for state representative.

Over the course of almost 30 years in office, our current state representative Charles “Woody” Burton has seen 11 blue moons, but he has only been in three contested races in the general election, including this year.

The reason a contested race for Mr. Burton is so rare is because there aren’t a lot of people willing to spend the time and energy required to try to win as a Democrat in Johnson County. It’s a long, steep, uphill battle and it is only fought by those who actually want to make a difference and work hard for the people of the district.

This brings me to Ed O’Connor, the first challenger for state representative in District 58 since 2006. I stopped by the debate between these two candidates at the Greenwood Public Library the other day and I was more than impressed with Mr. O’Connor. He is a U.S. Army veteran, a retired veterinarian and a small business owner.

He is campaigning on the idea that Johnson County is changing, and 30 years of the same representation at the statehouse is long enough.

When asked policy questions, O’Connor and Burton had some places of agreement, specifically on gun control, independent redistricting and accepting Syrian refugees. The differences between them were made very apparent on issues like roads, energy and equal rights. And these are the big issues affecting the state, and the people in Johnson County, so lets dig into them a little.

The candidate’s responses on roads and infrastructure had some similarities when it came to problem identification, but varied wildly on solutions. Woody Burton proposed raising the gas tax and installing toll roads to pay for maintenance and repairs. Ed O’Connor said the gas tax is becoming obsolete and that as cars become more efficient the revenue from a gas tax would dwindle. He proposes using the highway fund or a user tax to fix roads.

On energy it seemed as if the candidates were following stereotypical party lines. Ed O’Connor wants to catch Indiana up to our neighboring states in production of clean energy using natural gas, wind and solar energy.

He says these industries would not only provide energy, but good paying jobs. The plan from Woody Burton is focused on so-called “clean coal” and he wants to see more fracking and approval of pipelines.

Finally, on the issue of equality Woody Burton was steadfast in his beliefs about bathrooms, religious freedom and other talking points. He also offered no apologies for the statements he made accusing LGBT people of being similar to serial killers and child molesters.

For his part, Ed O’Connor made it clear Indiana was spending too much time on divisive social issues and in doing so we are hurting our national reputation and ability to retain our young people.

All in all, it was an eye-opening and cordial debate. Both men are very affable and knowledgeable. The question those of us in District 58 need to ask ourselves this election day is if we think 30 years of the same thing is too long, and if we are ready for new ideas from a candidate who wants to represent all the people. After this debate I am throwing my support behind Ed O’Connor, and I hope you will as well.

Andrew Talarzyk

New Whiteland