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Greg Goode (right) was elected in a Republican party caucus Saturday to fill the seat in the Indiana General Assembly that Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, (left) will vacate Oct. 16. (photo/Dwight Adams)

By Dwight Adams

The Indiana Citizen

October 7, 2023

On Saturday’s crisp fall morning, Republican precinct committee members filed into Northview High School Auditorium in Brazil to select a new state senator to fill the seat being vacated by Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute.

It’s doubtful the outcome was a surprise for many in attendance.

Greg Goode, the candidate endorsed by Ford, won on the first ballot with 56 votes. Before the vote, Goode gave a fiery partisan speech, disdainful of Democrats at both the state and federal levels.

“And for generations, Senate District 38 was a political comfort zone for do-nothing liberals who did absolutely nothing for the community. And then all of a sudden, 2014,” Goode said, adding that was the year “my friend, Jon Ford,” won the election for the state senate “and we have been on a winning track ever since.”

The morning began with precinct members settling into the auditorium and listening dutifully to a welcome and preliminary instructions from Anne Hathaway, chairwoman of the Indiana Republican Party. Then both Goode and the other candidate, John Waterman, gave their stump speeches, trying to sway the 74 precinct members in attendance.

The members filed into the hallway outside the auditorium to mark and drop their ballots into the box. Hathaway declared Goode the winner, capturing 75% of the vote with Waterman getting 18 votes.

Ford had introduced Goode before the vote, calling him a “great Christian conservative” with “deep ties to the Indiana right to life movement and Second Amendment groups as well.” Goode, who also was endorsed by Ford, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the vote beforehand and “deeply grateful” over his election.

Criticisms of Democrats, Illinois

In his introductory remarks, Goode made disparaging remarks about Democrats and Indiana’s neighbor, when he said “we have to look no further than 20 miles to our left – Illinois – to see how badly and how quickly things can go. But (Gov.) JB Pritzker and his band of brothers and sisters of liberals have made it so bad that their answer to their complete dysfunction is to distract their voters by making them stoned on legalized marijuana.”

As compared to Illinois, Goode said, “We can do better here in Indiana — faith, freedom, family, free-market principles with an eye to the future.” He said those same values will help make Indiana “resilient against all of the outside forces that are quite willingly and intentionally trying to bring the United States to its knees.”

He then threw shade at Democrats on the national scene, pointing at such “forces like” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Majorkas, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Vice President Kamala Harris, President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Goode, the state director for U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., said it was his goal, once he takes office, to “continue to make Indiana this great island of prosperity, this island of freedom and this wonderful place for our children and grandchildren to grow up.”

Waterman is currently a Sullivan County commissioner, who also had previously been elected as Sullivan County sheriff as well as an Indiana state senator from 1994 to 2014.

Before the caucus election, Waterman also spoke to the audience of precinct committee members to urge them to vote for him, mentioning “a whole slew of things” he worked on during his 20 years of prior service in the Indiana Senate and saying he was proud of “a life of public service … but elected, not appointed.”

 Waterman also said he wanted to return to the Indiana Senate to better protect the First and Second Amendments, which he said “are being attacked every day.”

Goode expresses thanks, gratitude

“Now the work begins,” Goode said in his acceptance speech. “I’d like to personally say how grateful I am for this man (referring to Ford). He is a great leader, a dear friend. I’ve got big shoes to fill. I’m gonna do everything I can to continue his hard work and honor his legacy. Thank you, senator.”

Ford is the fourth Republican legislator in the Indiana General Assembly this year to resign a seat before the end of his term, thereby necessitating that a party caucus be held to fill the empty seat.

A story this week in The Indiana Citizen, citing data from the Capitol & Washington political blog, pointed out that 32 of the 150 legislators now in the General Assembly first arrived through a caucus election.

Ford had served the district, which covers Vigo and Clay counties and a portion of Sullivan County, since he was first elected to the State Senate in 2014. State Affairs Pro Indiana reported that Ford plans to join Reliable Energy, a nonprofit that lobbies for the coal industry and other fossil fuel producers.

Goode’s thoughts on caucus process

Since a 1972 amendment to the state constitution, the Indiana legislature has been allowed to fill mid-term vacancies by votes in party caucuses. In such a caucus, the candidate with at least 50 percent of the vote, plus one vote, is elected to fill that empty seat.

When asked whether he thought the 56 caucus votes he received gave him a strong mandate to serve on, Goode first pointed out that Ford had run unopposed in the 2022 general election, before adding that the caucus votes do provide him with “an opportunity to show the world what I am capable of doing as well as (allowing me) to work toward Election Day in 36 months.”

Regarding party caucuses in general, Goode said, “I know that some people may not fully appreciate or like the approach, but that’s what is in place. And I would certainly take that approach over the various election fraud environments that proliferate in other states.”

Goode, who also was a former executive director of government relations and university communication for Indiana State University, said Ford urged him to run and added that he would like to continue his predecessor’s work in a host of issues, including being an advocate for economic development, higher education, workforce training, regional tourism, improved transportation, internet connectivity, and more affordable — and available — housing.

Protesters decry well waste plans

Outside the rear entrance to the school, half a dozen protesters held signs opposing a plan to inject and store carbon dioxide waste in two deep underground wells in Vermillion and Vigo counties. Several of the protesters expressed concerns that the well waste could contaminate the air or groundwater.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held a local hearing in August which drew more than 100 people, some of whom also voiced opposition to the injection wells planned by a subsidiary of Wabash Valley Resources to dispose of byproducts from production of anhydrous ammonia, an agricultural fertilizer.

Shortly before the caucus began, Goode walked past the protesters without stopping. Neither Goode, nor Waterman, mentioned the contentious well plans in their talks before the vote.

“We need friends now,” said one of the protesters, Susan Strole-Kos, of New Goshen. “Our elected officials have let us down.”

Dwight Adams, a freelance editor and writer based in Indianapolis, wrote this article. 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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