A Jennings County native who has lived in Columbus for the past 15 years plans to challenge an incumbent in the Indiana General Assembly.
Ross Thomas, 48, has announced his intention to run as a Democrat for the Indiana State Senate in District 41 in the 2018 election. That seat is held by Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus.
It will be Thomas’ first attempt at seeking public office. District 41 includes portions of Johnson and Bartholomew counties.
A 1988 graduate of Jennings County High School, Thomas earned his undergraduate degree in political economy in 1992. Two years later, he received his law degree from the Indiana University School of Law. He has a law practice in Indianapolis.
The state legislature is out of touch with the needs of working families struggling with stagnant wages, crumbling infrastructure and embattled public schools, Thomas said.
“Those we have elected to serve us seem more concerned with pleasing lobbyists and helping their friends and donors than solving problems for the rest of us,” Thomas said.
While state employees must adhere to strict rules regarding accepting gifts, Thomas said he was surprised to learn a few years ago that there are few restrictions concerning gifts given to state lawmakers by lobbyists.
“Fancy dinners, tickets to sporting events and other gifts are just a normal part of business as usual at the State Capitol,” Thomas said. “They shouldn’t be doing that, and we need to change our laws to end this activity.”
While Indiana has made improvements in job numbers, it has failed to keep up with neighboring states in terms of wages, he said.
Thomas cites Right to Work legislation and the repeal of the Common Construction Wage as two examples of a state government that promotes a race to the bottom in terms of wages.
“If wages don’t keep up, the number of employed doesn’t mean a lot,” said Thomas, who supports an increase in the state’s minimum wage. “We must also invest in career training, infrastructure and education in order to attract and retain good-paying jobs.”
Another priority outlined by Thomas is to provide public school teachers and administrators the resources they need, with less focus on standardized testing and more classroom time spent on actual learning.
“We must end the failed policy that gives tax dollars to private charter and voucher schools, which push profits to investors while failing to deliver on the promise of a high-quality education,” Thomas said.