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By Dwight Adams

The Indiana Citizen

October 5, 2023

Two men experienced in politics in west-central Indiana are vying in a caucus election to fill the Senate District 38 seat being vacated by longtime Republican state Sen. Jon Ford.

Greg Goode, the state director for U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., and John Waterman, a former Indiana state senator, have announced that they’re running for a chance to fill the remaining three years of Ford’s term. Ford is resigning from the Indiana General Assembly Oct. 16.

Republican precinct committee members will vote in caucus for the person to replace Ford, when they meet at 10 a.m. Oct. 7 at Northview High School Auditorium, 3150 W. State Road 40, Brazil. Each candidate will give a short speech and then the precinct members will vote. The candidate with at least 50 percent of the vote, plus one vote, will become the next state senator.

Randy Gentry, chairman of the Vigo County Republicans, confirmed only Goode and Waterman are running in the caucus. He spoke highly of both men and said the precinct members will have two good candidates to choose from.

“We don’t have a rookie in this,” Gentry said. “These are two very experienced politicians and public servants. They’ve seen their share of battles.”

Ford has served the district, which covers Vigo and Clay counties and a portion of Sullivan County, since his election to the State Senate in 2014. He did not give a reason for his resignation when he announced on Sept. 15 that he would leave office.

However, State Affairs Pro Indiana has reported that Ford will be joining Reliable Energy, a nonprofit that advocates for the coal industry and other fossil fuel producers in Indiana. According to state law, legislators are prohibited from becoming paid lobbyists in state government for one year after leaving office.

Ford is the fourth Republican legislator to resign from the Indiana General Assembly so far this year.

Both Goode and Waterman are familiar faces in local political circles.

Goode was hired by Young to be his state director, starting in January of this year. Prior to that, he worked as executive director of government relations and university communication for Indiana State University in Terre Haute. In that role, he worked with the Indiana General Assembly, governor’s office, Indiana congressional delegation and local governments.

According to the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, Goode also has been “a central figure” in the formulation of the Wabash River Regional Development Authority, which supports economic-development projects in the area. Goode won the GOP nomination for the 8th Congressional District seat in 2008, but lost in the general election to incumbent Democrat Brad Ellsworth, a former Vanderburgh County sheriff.

Waterman formerly represented the 39th District in the Indiana Senate from 1995 to 2014, when he lost in the Republican primary in his run for reelection. He also is a former sheriff for Sullivan County and an independent businessman.

Ford has endorsed Goode to succeed him, saying in a statement that Goode is “an individual with conservative convictions, Hoosier values, (and) integrity.”

Gentry admitted Thursday that Waterman is likely the “underdog” in the race. That’s partly because there will be, at most, four precinct committee members attending the caucus from Sullivan County, where Waterman is best-known. Gentry said as many as 87 precinct committee members could attend from Vigo County and another 22 or so from Clay County.

“It’s definitely a matchup,” Gentry said. “It’s just a tougher road for Senator Waterman.”

Gentry said political caucuses to fill open seats are less popular now than he remembers in the past, but added that they’re still important, because “if less people show up, it takes less people to win.”

The GOP is planning to livestream the caucus to find Ford’s replacement.

Dwight Adams is a freelance editor and writer based in Indianapolis. He is a former content editor, copy editor and digital producer at The Indianapolis Star and IndyStar.com, and worked as a planner for other newspapers, including the Louisville Courier Journal. 

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