Wabash Co. Demo Chair Seeking State Rep. District 18 Seat

Chad Harris poses for a photo at Latte Lounge in Warsaw after discussing his run for State Representative District 18. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

Democrat Chad Harris may not be well known in Kosciusko County yet, but he’s thrown his hat into the race for the State Representative District 18 position, currently held by Republican Dave Wolkins.

District 18 includes Wabash County and parts of Kosciusko, Grant and Miami counties. As of Thursday, the only other two candidates who have filed are Republicans – Craig Snow and Russell Reahard – so if Harris wins the May primary or is unchallenged by another Democrat, Harris wouldn’t have any race until November.

Harris, 40, has lived in Wabash almost his entire life, except four years he lived in Muncie.

While he’s never held a public political position, he is the chairman of the Wabash County Democratic Party. Next month marks his fourth year.

“I’ve been a political activist for almost 21 years, starting when I was 19,” Harris said in an interview Tuesday at Latte Lounge in Warsaw. “I’ve been involved in various campaigns – state, local. But as far as being elected publicly, I have not.”

He ran for Wabash County Council in 2014 for his district, but was unsuccessful.

As for running for District 18, Harris said, “Dave Wolkins’ seat has been occupied by Dave Wolkins for 32 years. I was 8 years old last time we had a (different) state representative. This doesn’t happen very often with no incumbent running, so I decided to take a stab at it as a Democrat.”

He said he’s bringing a choice to the election this year.

“A lot of times, there’s not a real good choice. Republicans think because it tends to be a Republican district that they have it all sowed up and whoever wins the Republican nominee, the general election is decided in the Republican primary. If we don’t have a choice, then we’re no better off than China, and we’ve had Democratic nominees in the past. There just needs to be a choice. It’s good for Democracy to have a choice,” Harris said.

Along with being a choice for voters, he said he’s also bringing energy and a fresh perspective to the table.

“I’m not going to be bought and paid for by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), as the current representative is,” Harris said.

ALEC is a nonprofit organization of conservative state legislators and private sector representatives who draft and share model state-level legislation for distribution among state governments in the United States, according to online information.

“I won’t even take donations over $200. It’ll be mostly funded out of my own pocket,” Harris said, admitting that can be a challenge. “I just would prefer not to be beholden to anyone but myself.”

If Reahard were to win the Republican nomination for District 18, Harris said that would be a “severe stark” contrast to his political ideology but could make for a good race. Harris said he didn’t know too much about any other possible candidates, but was sure they’d be “pretty far right.”

He said his platform was pro-teacher, pro-union, pro-working class and pro-working poor.

“Those constituencies haven’t had a voice in the statehouse under Dave Wolkins. He’s more the state chair of ALEC, and he’s more concerned with your boss than you. That needs to change, and I think during the course of this campaign I’m going to explain that a lot more why that needs to change. There needs to be an advocate for the middle class and the average person, and Dave Wolkins has not done that,” Harris said.

He said he doesn’t even see how any Republican even flirting with the idea of running is going to do that. Harris said the Republicans all will tow Governor Eric Holcomb’s line on education, the environment and budget “and no one else will get any kind of representation.”

Harris said he knows the race in a predominantly Republican area will be a challenge, but “there has to be a choice. There has to be. There just needs to be a choice.”

District 18 stretches from Winona Lake, to all of Wabash County and down to Swayzee. Harris said it’s the longest state House district in Indiana. He said he has a committee set up for his campaign, and he will canvas door to door as much as he can. There are about 65,000 people in the district. Wabash was in District 22, represented by Bill Rupple, until it was added to 18 in 2010.

“We will campaign heavy,” Harris said, with Wabash being the heaviest populated area in the district. He said Evan Bayh won Wabash County twice and Glenda Ritz won it as the state’s education superintendent in 2012.

“If you put some work behind it, you can make it competitive in Wabash, but the thing is, you really have to work Kosciusko, too, to have a chance in the district,” Harris said, recognizing it will be tough.

Currently, the campaign is mostly on Facebook at “Harris for Indiana” until filing ends Feb. 7, and then it will get more formal. His email is Imwabash@yahoo.com.