Mass transit focus of state representative race in Carmel
By Pete Smith
Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, has been the State Representative for District 39 since 1996. He said he hasn’t faced a primary challenger in 16 years since Nancy Irsay challenged his seat in 1998.
But upstart politician Don Meier has thrown his hat in the ring after taking an opposing stance to the mass transit proposal that Torr is working to shepherd through the Legislature.
“Hopefully it’s been because (voters) have been pleased with what I’ve done,” Torr said of his streak without a primary challenger – although he acknowledged there is often reluctance to challenge an incumbent.
Torr is a client executive at the Hylant Group. He was formerly a commercial casualty general adjuster with FCCI Insurance Company in Carmel.
Meier is a longtime software developer and software configuration management engineer who currently is subcontracted to work for IUPUI. He also has experience as a metalworker and machinist.
Meier has Tea Party support, and he said he knew the local Tea Party groups were looking for someone to run.
“I thought, ‘Hey, I can do it,’” he said.
“I appreciate the service of Jerry Torr while representing Indiana District 39. I must also say that after nearly 18 years, we need a change,” Meier said. “Mr. Torr’s long career in Indiana politics and the Indiana House of Representatives has ceased to serve our interests.”
Meier said he is opposed to the additional taxation that would be needed to implement a mass transit system in Carmel.
“The concept is wrong on many levels. It taxes people who don’t benefit from the service, it disrupts the free market by subsidizing labor costs for business, it will grow in cost, and it is very expensive,” he said in a statement.
I know there’s opposition out there to mass transit,” Torr said. “It’s really important to a lot of folks, including a lot of employers in Carmel.”
Torr noted it has Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard’s support, as well as that of the Carmel Chamber of Commerce.
He also said that for the plan to prevail, voters must approve it as a referendum that would provide local control.
And. although the plan approved by the Legislature is now likely to be funded with income tax increases and user fees and no corporate tax, Torr said House leaders are exploring creative financing methods to give businesses some skin in the game. That might include allowing a transit authority to negotiate with large employers and have them sign contracts to purchase a number of passes in bulk for their employees for a number of years.
Meier said he also opposes Torr’s votes on the proposed constitutional gay marriage ban and on funding for pre-K education that he fears would replace the primacy of the family in those regards.
The accomplishments Torr said he is most proud of during his time in office are repealing Indiana’s inheritance tax and pushing through right-to-work legislation last year.
“Most folks in Carmel understood it and thought it was a good thing for the state,” he said.
Neither candidate has begun raising money, and Torr said he might decide to wait until after the current legislative session is over.