Gard, 64, has served in the Senate for the past 20 years and chairs the Energy and Environmental Affairs Committee. Gard worked for Eli Lilly as a biochemist for a few years back in the 1960s before taking early retirement to raise a family. In one of her first joint appearances with Michael, Gard was quick to take issue with Michael's same-sex family, making clear that a family could only be headed by one man and one woman in explaining her support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Michael, who worked as a minister for 20 years and is in a long-term same-sex relationship, opposes a constitutional amendment defining marriage, preferring government take a neutral position on the issue. He also supports human rights laws which protect gays and lesbians from discrimination, which Gard steadfastly opposes.
While Michael's campaign is not well-funded like Gard's, his candidacy cannot be easily dismissed. He is no stranger to the residents of Gard's Senate district. He is in his second term as Fall Creek Township Trustee in Hamilton County. His township is the population center of District 28, with nearly one-third of the voters residing there. He says he has been getting a lot of encouragement in his bid and has a lot of grassroots support. In his campaign, Michael has been critical of Gard's lack of leadership as chairperson of the Senate committee which writes our environmental laws in providing for more regulation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Indiana has some of the weakest laws in the country Michael complains, endangering our environment. He also faults Gard for pushing expanded ethanol production in the state over other less costly alternative fuels. "Gard's answer to everything is that Indiana is an industrial state," Michael says. That means we should build more CAFOs and more ethanol plants in her mind without regard to the long-term impact on our state Michael says.
Property taxes have been a big issue this year in the legislature, but Michael, who also works as an assessment official in his township, takes a different view on property tax reform than many Republican legislators took this past session, including Gard, who supported Gov. Daniels' property tax reform plan as provided in HB 1001. He is concerned about the impact of shifting taxes to businesses and farmland through the graduated 1-2-3 caps. He is concerned about the loss of federal tax deductions for individual homeowners if they are paying higher sales taxes as a trade off for lower property taxes. He is particularly concerned about making the tax caps a permanent part of our state constitution. He notes that even Sen. Gard has backed off her support for making the tax caps permanent during the campaign, now saying it needs further study.
Michael believes Gard has been inattentive to the voters in the district. "I am committed to bringing energy and two-communication back to Senate District 28," he says. "The voters deserve open government and the opportunity to express their concerns and be listened to, not just heard." He's an unconventional Republican candidate with an unconventional Republican message. The Senate Republican caucus could certainly benefit from having a voice of moderation like his within its ranks.