Where GOP gubernatorial candidates stand on local control issues

Apr 03, 2024

Six candidates are seeking the Republican nomination for Indiana governor in the May 7 primary. State Affairs is providing looks at their stances on several issues. Jennifer McCormick is unopposed for the Democratic nomination. 

It’s been called the “Super City Council,” a body otherwise known as the Indiana General Assembly. It has heard or passed legislation to change transportation lines, nix a proposed annexation in Bloomington, change county solar and wind ordinances, and more.

During the March 11 debate at the Palladium in Carmel, the six Republican gubernatorial candidates — U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, former Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers, former Indiana Economic Development Corporation chief Eric Doden, former Attorney General Curtis Hill and conservative activist Jamie Reitenour — were asked these questions: “Are there any issues under local control that the state should assume? And are there any state issues that should be decided locally?”

Here’s how the candidates responded:

Mike Braun

“That issue on local control versus state control has really come to a head. Look at energy. In just seven to eight years, we’ve gone from having some of the lowest utility costs in the country to now we rank 33rd. So that idea of how we would keep utility costs low, through solar or wind or a variety of other stuff out there, is a wrestling match between counties seeing we could go from one to the other: No more windmills, no more solar panels. That is just one particular example. … I’m going to listen to see what the individual wants to do on their own property, what the local governments think needs to be done first, and then only if it requires a template that would dictate from top down a state guideline on any of those issues, including that one which I hear the most about.”

Brad Chambers

“In traveling around the state, I hear a lot from farmers about solar and wind and the state government coming in and mandating rules around those issues. Those are very personal issues to local communities, especially the solar issue. There is an agricultural heritage in this state, and we have to respect it and what it looks like. There are property rights on the other side of that issue. So I am in favor of local control to the best of our ability. We need to have government closer to the people in all regards. The same happens with road funding. We need to make sure those road funding issues are at the local level. Local control is important. 

Suzanne Crouch 

“I can remember when I was a county commissioner down in Vanderburgh County, and we always felt a disconnect from the state. What I have learned is for government to work best there has to be collaboration and there has to be partnership. … As governor, I will ensure we have a more collaborative partnership between local and state government and that we move away from the top-down, paternalistic, state-knows-best attitude we have with so many issues, particularly economic development. It’s why I as governor will be sure that we are empowering the local and regional economic development organizations so they can be true partners with us so we don’t leave any part of Indiana behind. Let’s make sure that when the state takes the lead, we have plans in place, like a statewide water plan so we know where our assets are, where we need to be moving that economic development to be sure we can tap into them.” 

Eric Doden

“I favor locals. We’re going to solve the problems of the United States from the grassroots up, not from the top down. It’s kind of interesting to me because everyone I engage with in state government says they’re for home rule until they get into office. Then they look at how they can pass state laws that eliminate home rule. On our Indiana Main Street initiative, I say we need a 92-county strategy. That is part of our chapter on economic development. But that strategy should come from local leaders — local government sector leaders, local private sector leaders — not from the top down. We know a good, a best strategy from the Regional Cities Initiative and we look at how that program developed. We actually gave authority for local leaders to decide what that partnership should look like. It was highly effective. We put in $126 million and got $1.25 billion in deals done in one year. So when you empower local leaders, really special things happen.”

Curtis Hill

“We want decisions made at the local level whenever we can. One example is economic development. It’s very easy for the State of Indiana to come in and make inroads on economic development, picking winners and losers. That’s not the way it should work, as we’ve seen with the LEAP District in Boone County. Those decisions should be made at the local level based on what the locals feel is in their best interests going forward, not decisions made at the Statehouse imposing their will on the people in that local community. … We need to identify the ways that locals can take power and authority within their confines and push the state into the corner where it belongs on local decisions.”

Jamie Reitenour

“[In] a perfect world where things are happening the way they should constitutionally, we would say, yes, we want the power closest to the people. Where we are having problems are with the referendums for our schools. It is just radically impacting our property taxes. They cannot afford their property taxes. … So this is an opportunity for the legislative body to get involved. I stand to have some kind of property tax that at 65 or older, it’s like a tiered system. If you pay off your mortgage, you don’t have to pay your property tax anymore. Whenever you buy your home, there’s a property tax that stays there until you sell your home when it’s actually reassessed to raise that rate. There is a need for accountability.” 

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Brian A. Howey is senior writer and columnist for Howey Politics Indiana/State Affairs. Find Howey on Facebook and X @hwypol.