Monroe County commissioner Penny Githens has announced a run for the District 62 seat in the Indiana legislature’s house of representatives.
Elections for the 100 state house seats take place in 2022.
The formal announcement came on Sunday afternoon, at a gathering of around 40 people at the Monroe County Democratic Party’s headquarters on Madison Street in downtown Bloomington.
Campaign themes that Githens highlighted on Sunday included the need to increase wages, recruit young people to the teaching profession, provide adequate childcare, and expand treatment for mental health issues and substance use disorders.
Githens told The B Square she will not be resigning from the Monroe County board of commissioners, in order to make the run for the District 62 seat.
Sunday’s announcement by Githens was attended by several former and current elected local officials.
A current state elected official also attended—Matt Pierce, who represents District 61 in the state house. Pierce told the B Square he will be seeking to return to that seat in 2022.
Among the former electeds was former Bloomington city councilmember and county commissioner Charlotte Zietlow. She delivered remarks after being introduced by former state senator Vi Simpson, who emceed the event.
Zietlow is chairing the campaign committee for Githens. Zietlow began by quipping, “Thanks to the generosity of the Republican redistricting committee, we have a real chance to get a new seat in the state house—somebody to go up there with Matt [Pierce]. I can’t think of a better candidate than Penny Githens.”
Zietlow’s humor was based on the fact that the geographic coverage of District 62 changed after redistricting, so that a Democrat now has a realistic shot at winning the seat.
The district is no longer centered on Greene County. District 62 has been shifted eastward so that it encompasses the southern part of Monroe County including southern parts of Bloomington, Brown County and parts of Jackson County.
The geo-political change was significant enough that District 62 incumbent Republican Jeff Ellington announced on Oct. 20 that he’d be changing his residency to Bloomfield. That means Ellington will be eligible to run in the new District 45, which includes Greene, Sullivan, and parts of Daviess, Knox and Vigo counties.
The incumbent Republican for District 45 is Republican Bruce Borders, who is the party’s assistant majority whip.
On Oct. 18, two days before Ellington’s news, Republican Dave Hall announced that he is running for the District 62 seat. Hall is the owner of Dave Hall Crop Insurance. He serves on the Jackson County council as an at-large member.
A cursory check of filings on Monroe County’s website now turns up several local candidates for 2022, plus one additional state-level candidate.
Democrat Kurtis Cummings, founder of Switchyard Brewing, has filed paperwork to explore a run for House District 46. The incumbent for District 46 is Republican Bob Heaton, who is the party’s majority whip
County councilor Peter Iversen, who represents District 1, has filed paperwork for reelection in 2022.
Democrat Ashley Cranor has filed paperwork for county recorder.
Bookending the agenda on Sunday were tributes to Indiana as a place.
Githens led off her remarks by describing a visit to Indiana from a fellow Peace Corp volunteer, who hailed from Kansas, just after their service concluded. “Even though he was from the Midwest, he was surprised by Hoosier hospitality,” Githens said.
That kind of hospitality has been lost, Githens said. She continued, “Now as the rest of the country is growing apart, there’s a divide between urban and rural, between Democrats and Republicans. There’s a divide between the haves and the have-nots. There’s a divide between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. So we’ve become a nation of winners and losers. And there’s no room for compromise, it seems.”
The proceedings were wrapped up by former Bloomington city councilmember and candidate for the U.S. Congress Andy Ruff and his son, Hank, when they strummed the group through a chorus that everybody knew: “Back home again in Indiana / And it seems that I can see / The gleaming candlelight still shining bright / Through the sycamores for me.”
Photos: Penny Githens campaign announcement (Oct. 31, 2021)