Pennville resident Branda Manns briefly speaks to the crowd Monday during Jay County Freedom Coalition’s candidate night at Jay County Fairgrounds. Manns is running for Pennville Town Council. (The Commercial Review/Bailey Cline)
Pennville resident Branda Manns briefly speaks to the crowd Monday during Jay County Freedom Coalition’s candidate night at Jay County Fairgrounds. Manns is running for Pennville Town Council. (The Commercial Review/Bailey Cline)
Early voting begins next week.

Republicans are gearing up after a debate Monday.

Jay County Republicans heard from candidates running in the May primary Monday in the Bubp Exhibition Hall at Jay County Fairgrounds.

Republicans Brittany Kloer of Portland and J.D. Prescott of Union City faced off in a debate regarding issues involving the state legislature.

Prescott, who represents the southern two-thirds of the county in District 33, defeated Kloer in the 2020 primary.

“I do seek re-election for the simple fact that I want to continue to work on the key principles that I’ve been focused on inside (as a) person elected to the General Assembly, to continue to build a better future for both our kids and the next generation,” said Prescott, who works as a real estate agent and also helps on his family farm.

“I’m ready to be your District 33 state representative because I want to continue serving our communities and act as a true representation of the people,” said Kloer, Kloer, a former Jay County High School teacher who now works in career and technical eduction.

On the topic of the healthcare, Prescott said he’s been working to make sure the COVID-19 vaccine is an “individual, personal responsibility.” He authored a House resolution to terminate the state of emergency put in place during the coronavirus pandemic. Likewise, he also supported House Bill 1001, which he said gives more rights to employees versus their employers.

Kloer argued against House Bill 1001, saying it “gives power to an unelected official.” She suggested instead a committee of legislators. She added an employer can also put an employee on an administrative leave without pay if they do not get the vaccine.

In regard to high inflation, Prescott advocated for the state’s “balanced budgets” during his time in office, adding that each taxpayer will be receiving a roughly $125 tax refund and the state income tax is decreasing from 3.23% to 2.9%.

Kloer noted Indiana has the third highest gas tax in the United States at 56.35 cents per gallon. The state is the fourth highest in diesel, she added, and the second highest in sales taxes. She pointed out Prescott’s voting record on various bills in which he did not advocate for a tax reduction.

In relation to confined feeding operations, wind and solar farms, Kloer said property owners “need to remember to be good neighbors and all come to an agreement.” She said legislation for these operations needs to be handled at the local level.

Prescott said property rights come down to the property owner. Tax exemptions, he added, should be decided by local government.

Also Monday, candidates running for local office shared their perspectives with those in attendance.

Incumbent commissioner Chad Aker, who represents the middle district, noted he’s been a fireman at Portland Fire Department for about 27 years. The lifelong Portland resident said he’s learned it’s important to scrutinize over the budget and talk with the community. He brought up Jay County Country Living (formerly known as Jay County Retirement Center). Aker also highlighted the American Rescue Act Plan dollars and discussion to use the funding for infrastructure for housing, child care and for a new building for Jay County Emergency Medical Service, Jay County Health Department and Jay County Coroner’s Office.

“I am a representative of the people, I’m not a leader,” he said. “What you guys want is what I’m here for. I need to hear from you.”

Bryan Alexander, who is running against Aker in the May primary, moved to Jay County with his family in the ’70s and operates Capital Cities Investments in Portland. He advocated for living in Jay County and said he believes it’s important for the county to bring in more people and businesses in order to flourish. He also noted he would focus on getting high-speed, wired internet for all residents. Alexander said he loves solving issues in politics and would be an advocate for the public.

“I promise you that I’ll put the time in and deliver that with the best of my ability,” he said.

Sheriff candidates Tony Lennartz, Ray Newton and Patrick Wells also spoke at the event, sharing their perspectives on how to handle Jay County Sheriff’s Office moving forward.

Lennartz, who is lieutenant of investigations at the department, said a main aspect of his administration would be handling drug intervention, as well as maintaining the budget and increasing the amount of training for officers.

Newton advocated for his experience, having served as sheriff from 2007 to 2014. He highlighted his past accomplishments, such as the jail expansion, and said as sheriff he would work for a more balanced budget, incorporate more training and bring back mental health and addiction-recovery programs to the jail.

Wells, who serves as captain at the department, focused on increasing morale in the community, with police offering more of a presence in the county. He also said COVID-19 should not have shut down the jail, in regard to not arresting those charged with crimes during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and halting mental health and addiction-recovery programs.

Russ Mounsey, a police officer who is running for the District 79 seat representing the northern third of the county, also introduced himself. Incumbent Republican Matt Lehman was not invited to attend the event.

Brenda Manns of Pennville also briefly spoke to the crowd. She is running for a seat on Pennville Town Council.