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May 2, 2012

Area voters to decide two contested Statehouse primaries

Clere and Rhoads face challengers

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Voters in certain precincts of Clark and Floyd counties will have two contested races for Indiana state representative to decide on come primary election day.

DISTRICT 72

In District 72, two Democrats — Sharon Grabowski and Thomas L. Lenfert — are seeking the nod to face incumbent Republican Edward D. “Ed” Clere. District 72 includes the inner areas of Floyd County, including the city of New Albany, one precinct in western Clarksville and some of Georgetown.

Grabowski, 65, New Albany, is a former teacher for the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated Schools  system. She retired about nine years ago and has since been working as an investment adviser with MetLife.

Though she’s never held elected political office, she plans to rely on her four years of experience as president of the teachers’ union, between 1998 and 2002, in working together with other legislators in Indianapolis. She believes she would be a good match against Clere, because “I feel that I have the backing of teachers and the educational system here in New Albany. I have a good reputation here in town.”

In the weeks that she’s been campaigning, she’s been talking to voters about funding for schools, saying that it’s been frozen at nearly the same level since 2007. Other issues like creating jobs and protecting Medicare funds for senior citizens have been key on the campaign trail as well, she said.

“Plus I’m asking constituents to let me know what their issues are,” she said.

As for goals for improving state government, she said she’d like to see legislators work together, rather than splitting along party lines.

Lenfert, 57, of Georgetown, is a self-employed landscaper and grass-cutter. He’s not held political office before either, but this won’t be the first time he’s been on the ballot. In recent years, he’s run for Floyd County council and commissioner seats, most recently in 2008. Last year, he declared his candidacy for governor of Indiana before dropping out of the race.

He’s seeking the state representative seat now, saying he’s upset with the way Clere has handled the job. Specifically, he said, Clere should have gotten input from constituents before voting on the right-to-work bill that came up during the last session of the Indiana General Assembly. That bill outlawed labor agreements that require workers to pay union dues.

“I’m representing the people not myself,” he said. “You got to remember the people in the county who put you in the office.”

He admits both himself and Grabowski are likely qualified for the office, but said his past experience in running campaigns in the last 12 years makes him the better choice to face Clere in the fall.

So far, his campaigning activities have consisted of passing out fliers and some door-to-door activities. If elected, a key issue will be making sure revenues from Hoosier Lottery sales goes strictly to education.

“If I could get that passed, there won’t be no school closings,” he said.

Clere, a New Albany Realtor, is in his second consecutive term in Indianapolis.

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