TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - We have less than 45 days until the November 3rd election. Many may be focused on the presidential race, but there are several important local elections that directly impact the people of our viewing area, including the race for Indiana Senate District 7. Democrat Tabitha Bartley is challenging Republican Incumbent Brian Buchanan.
District 7 is a big one, covering parts of Boone, Tippecanoe, Clinton, Carroll, Jasper and all of White County. It takes about an hour and 15 minutes to drive up I-65 from the bottom of the district to the top.
This is the first year that both are campaigning for the job. Senator Buchanan was voted into office in a caucus in 2018 after Brandt Hershman stepped down from the role. Both say campaigning during a pandemic has forced them to get creative.
"It is my first campaign too, so I don't have a lot to compare it to but it's been even more social media than I thought," said Bartley.
"It seems like you spend a lot more time making phone calls, doing zoom meetings," said Buchanan.
Buchanan said he has several things to be proud of over the past two and half years, including keeping transparent with constituents a priority.
"The purpose of the Indiana General Assembly is to hopefully make lives better for all Hoosiers," he said. "I really pride myself on being visible to people, especially to my constituents. Listening to them, hearing what's on their mind, what issues they are concerned about."
He said he is hearing the need for better access to internet in the rural parts of the district, especially since the start of the pandemic where constituents tell him reliable internet is necessary for work and school.
He said he hears about support for helping deregulate K-12 education in order to give more autonomy to local districts. He sponsored House Bill 1003 in the 2019 Legislative Session that addresses regulation of teacher trainings.
He said he is proud of authoring Senate Bill 427 in the 2020 Legislative Session. If a person in the military is transferred to Indiana, the bill makes it easier for their spouse to get a job if they have an occupational license. Governor Eric Holcomb signed SB427 into law in March.
He said he also hears concerns about keeping small towns sustainable. This is especially important to him as we enter a budget session with depleted financial income. He acknowledged that there are going to have to be some tough choices made in this upcoming session regarding funding.
"We have got to make sure we have things in place to keep Indiana the great economic state that it is," he said. "Indiana is an attractive place for businesses to come."
Click here to visit Sen. Buchanan's Facebook page to learn more about his campaign.
Tabitha Bartley is a Monticello native who is also a Marine veteran. She served with the 6th Marine Corps District and eventually became a Marine Public Affairs Sergeant. She currently works in Purdue's College of Pharmacy. She is planning to advocate for two of her passions if elected: Veterans and mental health.
"For me, I struggle with PTSD and anxiety and I have multiple physical ailments that cause me severe pain," she said. "We don't have enough mental health resources in this state or in this community."
Bartley said she thinks it is crucial to have the voice of a veteran advocating for mental health resources in the Indiana Statehouse, making votes and authoring bills. She said she hopes she can be an example of perseverance and that by talking openly about her struggles, she can help reduce stigma.
Her first priority with veterans is one she said could be passed easily within the first year of office.
"We need to make sure all of our county Veteran Support Officers have the same credentials across the state," she said. "We also need to make them more diverse, meaning more women and more minorities."
As a mom, she said she also knows the importance of quality public education and making sure K-12 have necessary funding. She said she and her family have been through the struggles of living paycheck-to-paycheck and worrying about affording basic health care.
"I think most Hoosiers could have a better quality of life and I think that starts with our elected officials listening and knowing what the people in the community really need," she said.
She's heard from voters about the need for legalizing medicinal marijuana, something she feels could be a huge benefit to people dealing with mental health issues.
Connor Wentling was an Executive Officer in the Marines who oversaw Bartley while she worked to promote and recruit for the corps. He said Bartley embodies the values of the Marine Corps: honor, courage and commitment. These are values he believes are important for our elected officials.
"She was driven by honor. Integrity mattered to her. Making a difference mattered to her," he said. "People mattered to Tabitha because she was one person serving a unit of over 100 people and everyone always wanted something from her, and she would stick by her word and get it done."
"I'm coming to bring change to Indiana and to be a servant leader," she said.
Click here to visit Bartley's Facebook page to learn more about her campaign.
Photos of Sen. Buchanan used in story courtesy of "Brian Buchanan State Senate" Facebook page.
Photos of Tabitha Bartley used in story courtesy of Tabitha Bartley. The Marine Corps and Department of Defense are not endorsing Bartley or any candidate to use the photos.