Hunter Smith, an Indianapolis Colts punter turned farmer, is running for an open Indiana Statehouse seat as a Republican.
Current Rep. Donna Schaibley, R-Carmel, announced in October that she would not seek reelection in 2024. House District 24 includes parts of Boone and Hamilton counties.
Smith played for the Colts from 1999 to 2008, then played an additional two years for the Washington Redskins. Smith—who grew up on a Texas farm—has operated his own farm in Zionsville for about a decade, according to its website. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1999.
“I have no interest in being popular. I have no interest in being well-known,” Smith told the Capital Chronicle. “I’ve played football in the NFL for a very long time; that gains you some degree of popularity, and I found that to be pretty frivolous.”
“… If I was going to enter into what people these days call politics, I wanted to make sure that I was entering into public service first,” Smith continued.
He said a top priority would be the environment, from conservation to farming and food. Smith’s own farm seeks to improve soil health through “regenerative” farming practices. It also sequesters carbon.
Smith called environmental issues a “missed opportunity” for conservatives, remarking, “I don’t believe there is a party of the environment.”
And he critiqued typical initiatives from both primary parties as relating to “some kind of industry that they claim sequesters carbon, … cleans the air or gives us a better energy source.”
Smith called those industries “middlemen,” adding, “The real issue is how humans relate to natural landscapes.”
But his first initiative would be to “be quiet, be led and learn” rather than “come in swinging” to the Statehouse.
Although Smith said he’d prioritize bipartisanship, “balance” and “dialogue,” he was also clear in calling himself a “pro-life conservative” and “pro-school choice.” He noted that his children have been educated publicly, privately and at home.
Smith filed his candidate statement of organization in November, according to the state’s campaign finance database. His entry into the race was first reported Thursday in the political newsletter Importantville.
The Indiana Democratic Party pounced in a news release Monday, calling Smith an “anti-civil rights extremist” for his affiliation with an anti-gay Christian not-for-profit.
“While some people might remember Hunter Smith from his ball-playing days, since Smith left his professional sports career and moved into politics, his extremist views have become clear,” Chair Mike Schmul said. “… Hunter Smith’s history of support for hate groups like the Indiana Family Institute make it clear that if elected, his focus would be on pushing extreme views, not on working for Hoosiers.”
Smith said he was “just not” an extremist.
“That’s part of the issue we’re facing as a nation, is that people who only know about someone’s (affiliation) with a group at some point in their life … are finding it as a means to dispose of them, or to label them as something without ever actually getting to know them,” he said.
“… That’s kind of the first thing we have to do is stop being immature,” concluded Smith, who vowed not to “judge (people) separate from knowing them.”
There are two others in the race: Democrat attorney Josh Lowry filed his statement of organization in June 2022 and an amended version in April. Republican Bill Gutrich filed in October.
One of them—or a yet-to-enter candidate—will replace Schaibley. She’s retiring after almost a decade spent in office, and is one of numerous Republicans to lay out exit plans or make mid-term departures since the last legislative session ended in April.
The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.