By Evan Weaver
RICHMOND, Ind. — The 2024 Indiana gubernatorial race is heating up as we slowly inch towards the new year, with six Republicans, two Democrats and one Libertarian in the running ahead of next spring’s primaries. One of the Republicans, Brad Chambers, made an appearance in Wayne County on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at the Forest Hills Country Club as part of his listening campaign, a statewide tour that Chambers has been on where he listens to citizens and voters to understand their views and aspirations as to what they want in their next governor.
One of the Republicans, Brad Chambers, made an appearance in Wayne County on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at the Forest Hills Country Club as part of his listening campaign, a statewide tour that Chambers has been on where he listens to citizens and voters to understand their views and aspirations as to what they want in their next governor.
“I’ve been a career entrepreneur in Indiana, a Hoosier, for my entire life and I believe that Indiana is great but it can be even better,” Chambers said.
It’s not the first time that Chambers has been in the All-American City, as he was in Richmond in March with Gov. Holcomb to announce the expansion of pet food company Blue Buffalo, which plans to create 50-60 new jobs by the end of 2024.
The last person to enter the race and the only candidate who has never run for a political office before, Chambers has served as Gov. Holcomb’s secretary of commerce for the past two years, from July 2021 to August 2023.
His campaign website, ChambersforIndiana.com, states that in his two-year term, Indiana’s economy has grown to “an unprecedented $33 billion in committed capital expenditures, along with record wage increases” thanks to his strategic vision.
“I’m focused on growing the state’s economy and leading the state into the future as governor,” he said. “…Fundamental to my belief is that the number one job of a governor is to grow the economy.”
Talking money with potential voters in Wayne County
At the country club and statewide, Chambers said that most of his conversations with voters dwell on economic issues, adding that he has answered thoughtful questions about how Richmond can be more competitive in the national and even global economies.
“People are concerned about inflation and their wage growth. They’re focused on and hearing in concern about property taxes. So lots of economic themes, especially in a time like now.”
Part of Chambers’ plan was putting together a five-year vision and a 10-year plan to grow the state GDP and state’s wages to the national average, focusing on a “5E” platform: Building an economy of the future, focusing on entrepreneurship investing, competing in the energy transition, telling Indiana’s story through external engagement and taking care of the state’s environment through the READI program that allocated $15 million to Wayne County.
But economics were not the only thing that Chambers addressed.
As someone who started his own business — Buckingham Companies ― in 1984 in order to fund his college education and bachelor’s degree in finance at Indiana University
Bloomington’s Kelley School of Business, Chambers also talked about education and how it’s working for families in Indiana.
“I’m really focused on getting more Hoosiers educated in Hoosier institutions, and it’s been going the other way,” he said. “That is really important to me. We have really, really good higher education institutions in Indiana and I think more Hoosiers need to access those.”
Should he be elected governor, Chambers said that he would make sure that the percentage of in-state students at Indiana schools go up instead of going down.
Plans for education
While he has not released a policy rollout based on education yet, though he plans to, Chambers has three policies outlined on his website.
The first, announced at the end of October, is the “Safe Online” plan, focused on protecting the state’s children online from “dangers and harms caused by the excessive use of digital and social media, as well as access to inappropriate material and pornographic websites.”
“The world is different than it was when I was in my younger years and technology is continuing to evolve,” he said. “I think building an economy future starts in third grade and it starts with our youth. Parents are struggling and managing what our kids are getting exposed to. Big tech is going to continue to take advantage of our youth and they’re treating them like customers and taking their data. Parents need help and I think Indiana should be a national leader.”
Two of the four points Chambers touched on from the plan was partnering with the state legislature to make it harder for underage children to get into websites that can be harmful, beginning with creating an age-authentication process and enforcing penalties on online companies that fail to prevent Hoosier children from accessing pornographic material.
‘Protect and Serve’ plan to support first responders and protect communities
The second policy, dubbed the “Protect and Serve” plan, focuses on eight points supporting first responders and ensuring that equal justice is applied across the state, regardless of what city or town they are living in.
“It’s a hard time to be a police officer and a first responder,” he said. “COVID and that chaos and tumult of the last three or four years, I want to send a message that we value our first responders and our police officers and that they are the frontline of a safe society.”
One key aspect of the Protect and Serve plan is making sure that a violent or repeat offender arrested is not released the next day on a $400 or $500 bail, proposing a mandatory minimum bail for such offenders.
Other points in the plan include enhancing and strengthening qualified immunity for first responders acting in good faith during the line of duty, creating regional, multi-disciplinary and cross-jurisdictional task forces to tackle the fentanyl epidemic, providing appropriate treatment to offenders experiencing mental health crises and allowing licensed childcare facilities to qualify for the Indiana Secured School Grant program, which is not currently allowed.
Chambers acknowledged that Richmond is tackling the fentanyl problem by itself but that it would be stronger if it was part of a collaborative effort with the rest of central Indiana.