Indiana’s primary election has been moved from May 5 to June 2 as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, now joining 10 other states that have primaries scheduled on that day. As the focus shifts away from the presidential primary, with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., having suspended his campaign, leaving former Vice President Joe Biden the presumptive candidate, down-ballot races are starting to receive some of the attention that they’ve long deserved.
Democratic voters in Bloomington, for example, will have the opportunity to choose their nominee in the race to fill the seat of Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, who announced his retirement in November 2019. Given that no Republican or Independent candidates have filed to be on the ballot in November, it appears that the Democratic primary on June 2 will determine who replaces Stoops.
Bloomington is known for being one of the most liberal cities in Indiana, and our next state senator needs to reflect that. In terms of experience, energy and embodying the progressive spirit of Bloomington, there is no better candidate than Shelli Yoder, a former Monroe County Council member.
Indiana is in desperate need of strong leadership. For too long, elected officials in Indianapolis have worked to benefit themselves and their own agendas, as seen with the infamous Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015, rather than the millions of working people who call Indiana home. Today, our state ranks 39th in air and water quality, 49th in pollution, 42nd in access to the internet, 42nd in public health, 32nd in health care access and still lacks an inclusive hate crimes law. It is quite clear to those of us who care about the environment, public education and equity that business as usual isn’t working.
Luckily, Yoder is an innovator who works to get things done in the most effective and equitable way. For example, she co-founded and co-chaired the first South Central Indiana Opioid Summit in 2017 to bring those who suffered, and continue to suffer, from opioid addiction into the larger conversation on how best to address the issue going forward.
On her campaign website, Yoder outlines nine legislative priorities that will serve as the backbone of her campaign. Whether it’s fighting for our environment, protecting reproductive justice or respecting public education, her candidacy is the personification of Bloomington’s progressive and justice-centered disposition.
Having run as the Democratic candidate for Indiana’s Ninth Congressional District in 2012 and 2016, Bloomington voters can rest assured that she will bring the same fight to Indianapolis to fight on our behalf. In addition, her seven years of service on the Monroe County Council, during which she served a term as both president and vice president, give Yoder the experience that she’ll need to be an effective voice for working families across the state.
In addition to vital improvements in key areas such as the environment and health care, Indiana also needs a more diverse set of leaders. In 2016, only 9% of seats in the State Assembly were held by women. While that number has improved slightly since then, it is not near what it should be. To try and rectify this gross gender imbalance, a group called 25 Women for 2020 is working to elect 25 Democratic women to the Indiana State Assembly in November, and Yoder is one of those women.
The Democratic primary on June 2 will pit Yoder against Democratic Party Chairman John Zody and former Republican congressional candidate Trent Feuerbach. If Democratic voters in Bloomington want to have a state senator in Indianapolis next year who is a champion for progressive values and has a track record of getting things done, then they should cast their vote for Yoder.
Jerrett Alexander (he/him) is a freshman studying international relations and environmental sustainability. He sits on the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability.