A political newcomer plans to challenge an incumbent Indiana state senator to represent parts of Johnson and Bartholomew counties.
Ross Thomas, 48, Columbus, plans to run as a Democrat next year for the Indiana State Senate District 41 seat, challenging incumbent State Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus.
The state legislature is out of touch with the needs of working families struggling with stagnant wages, crumbling infrastructure and embattled public schools, Thomas said.
“Those we have elected to serve us seem more concerned with pleasing lobbyists and helping their friends and donors than solving problems for the rest of us,” Thomas said.
While state employees must adhere to strict rules regarding accepting gifts, Thomas said he was surprised to learn a few years ago that there are few restrictions concerning gifts given to state lawmakers by lobbyists.
“Fancy dinners, tickets to sporting events and other gifts are just a normal part of business as usual at the State Capitol,” Thomas said. “They shouldn’t be doing that, and we need to change our laws to end this activity.”
While Indiana has made improvements in job numbers, it has failed to keep up with neighboring states in terms of wages, he said.
Thomas, who has a law practice in Indianapolis, cites Right to Work legislation and the repeal of the Common Construction Wage as two reasons that have led to low wages.
“If wages don’t keep up, the number of employed doesn’t mean a lot,” said Thomas, who supports an increase in the state’s minimum wage. “We must also invest in career training, infrastructure and education in order to attract and retain good-paying jobs.”
Thomas also wants to provide public school teachers and administrators with the resources they need, with less focus on standardized testing and more classroom time spent on actual learning, he said.
“We must end the failed policy that gives tax dollars to private charter and voucher schools, which push profits to investors while failing to deliver on the promise of a high-quality education,” Thomas said.
Name: Ross Thomas
Political party: Democrat
Family: Wife, America; children, Joe, Henry and Claudia.
Education: 1988 graduate of Jennings County High School. Undergraduate degree in political economy in 1992 from Tulane University. Graduated from the Indiana University School of Law in 1994.
Previous elected offices sought: None.