Four Republicans are vying for a primary victory in the House District 29 race, and the contenders say workforce development and education will be among their top priorities if they go on to victory in the general election.
In December, longtime state Rep. Kathy Richardson announced she wouldn’t seek re-election in House District 29, which encompasses a large portion of Hamilton County. She has represented the area since 1992 and is the highest ranking Republican woman in the Legislature, serving as the House GOP caucus chairwoman since 2000.
Instead, Richardson, the election administrator for Hamilton County, is running to be Hamilton County’s next clerk.
Four men have thrown their hat in the ring for next month's Republican primary: Brad Beaver, Garen Bragg, Chuck Goodrich and Greg O’Connor.
Beaver and O’Conner have years of experience governing at the local level, while Bragg and Goodrich are running for public office for the first time. The primary election is May 8, though early voting has already started in Hamilton County.
The Republican who prevails in the primary faces Democrat Tracy Roberts in the general election in November. Roberts, club chair of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, is unopposed in the primary.
House District 29 encompasses all of Noblesville as well as Wayne Township and portions of Fall Creek and White River townships in Hamilton County.
Beaver, a Noblesville resident, has served on the Hamilton County Council for more than 20 years.
Owner of BeaverAir, a heating and cooling contractor that’s operated in Noblesville since 1980, Beaver said after two decades serving Hamilton County residents at the local level, he’s ready for a new challenge.
Twenty years on the county council have equipped him with experience that makes him a good fit for the Statehouse position, he said.
If elected, Beaver, 59, said his focus at first would be on making sure Noblesville gets its fair share of funding generated from an increase in the state’s gasoline tax, which went into effect last July.
He wants to help ensure that funding goes to roads and highway improvements and isn’t diverted to some other state expense.
Beaver said he has spent years trying improve Hamilton County roads and wants to ensure that effort can continue.
Beyond that priority, he said he doesn’t expect he’ll be looked toward to champion any big pieces of legislation in his first year. He is interested in learning more about how state funding is divvied up among schools, he said.
Come election day, Beaver hopes voters keep his dedication to local government in mind.
“Right now, today, Hamilton County is a great place to live. We have good schools, low crime rates. Our roads and bridges are about as good as anyone in the state,” he said. “While I’m not saying I’m the one who did all that, I’m saying I was involved in county government when all that occurred.”
Bragg, an Army National Guard officer and insurance producer, was born in Noblesville and still lives there.
Bragg, 23, never expected to run for office at such a young age, but friends and neighbors encouraged him to do so after Richardson announced her retirement, he said.
He’s been a member of the Army National Guard for six years and has been an insurance producer since 2013. Both positions have given him experience he’d bring to the state capitol, including an ability to listen to others, he said.
He offers voters a fresh, conservative voice, he said.
While workforce development and school funding remain important issues at the Statehouse, he hears from voters who say they’re most concerned about electing a candidate who will protect their Second Amendment right and who is pro-life, he said. They want assurance the person they elect to represent them at the state level won’t vote to raise the minimum age for purchasing a gun or to impose other restrictions.
“Voters want someone who is going to stand up for their values,” he said. “I will never compromise on those (conservative) values.”
Noblesville residents also are worried about the fate of the Nickel Plate Railroad corridor becoming a pedestrian trail as proposed by Fishers and Noblesville officials. It should be maintained as a railroad, he said, and he’ll do what he can to fight for such at the state level.
Chuck Goodrich, 48, said he’s not a politician. He’s a “business guy” who would bring his decades of experience at a local electrical construction business to the Statehouse.
President and CEO of Gaylor Electric, an electrical construction company based in Noblesville, he started working for the business as an intern while in college and slowly worked his way up the ranks, he said.
He’s never held political office but believes his experiences on various boards will suit him well if elected.
He serves on the board of directors for the National Associated Builders and Contractors, is chairman of the Riverview Health Foundation and chair-elect of the Purdue Construction Advisory Board for Building Construction Management.
Among his legislative priorities if elected will be workforce development. He said he believes other companies and businesses can create education programs based off Gaylor’s internship programs.
Goodrich helped develop a program at Gaylor in which high school and college students (as many as 50 in the summer) can earn credit for spending time working at Gaylor and shadowing professionals. The program encourages them to consider a job in the industry upon graduation and teaches them the skills they’ll need to do so, he said.
“Every day they’re mentored, they’re working beside someone who teaches them a work ethic,” Goodrich said. “That model can be huge for our state and our district.”
After serving on the Noblesville City Council for 10 years, Greg O’Connor, 60, said he’s ready to move to governing at the state level.
O’Connor, a commercial banker who has lived in Noblesville for 30 years, said he became interested in running for the seat after hearing Richardson planned to retire.
He believes his banking and local government experience will be beneficial to residents in District 29, he said.
Working with businesses as both a banker and city councilman, he said he has a good idea of what employers are looking for in potential employees.
Citing Forbes' ranking of Indiana as 45th nationwide in workforce readiness, O’Connor said workforce development—preparing students for the positions available to them—needs to be a priority for the state Legislature, and he’s interested in helping look for solutions to fill the jobs open across Indiana.
“I’m really passionate about making sure we continue the momentum. The unemployment rate is terrific. Job opportunities are out there,” he said.
Other legislative priorities O’Connor said he’ll be interested in tackling include infrastructure improvements to interstates 65 and 70 and fighting the state’s opioid crisis by supporting proposals that would create more treatment centers.
He said both corridors should be three-lanes wide from border to border. Funding such a large project would be difficult, he admits, but he believes his experience in the private sector would be helpful in finding ways to do so.
Ultimately, if elected, he promises to be a good listener, a sounding board for residents, he said.
“The one thing I’ve done over the last 39 years as a banker is listen,” he said. “I’m really passionate about doing this and doing it right.”