Pitman to challenge incumbent Milo Smith in District 59

State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, cleared one hurdle in his bid for a sixth consecutive term as the House District 59 representative. He’ll face another in November when he competes against Democrat Bob Pitman in the general election.

Smith, first elected to the Indiana House in 2006, won a three-way race in the GOP primary Tuesday. Smith received 5,882 votes (47.2 percent) to defeat challengers Ryan Lauer (4,825 votes, 38.8 percent) and Lew Wilson (1,745 votes, 14 percent).

Pitman edged Dale Nowlin 2,472 votes (53.9 percent) to 2,117 votes (46.1 percent) for the Democratic Party’s nomination. 

District 59 represents western, southern, central and part of northern Bartholomew County.

Smith, owner of a tax consulting business in Columbus, won the five previous races for the District 59 seat comfortably and didn’t face an opponent in the primary until 2014, when he faced Lauer.

This year provided a greater challenge with Lauer seeking a rematch and Bartholomew County Assessor Lew Wilson also entering the GOP primary.

“I’m really honored and pleased to say that I was able to beat two opponents,” Smith said, adding that it was a privilege that two other people considered state representative an important enough job to take time out of their lives to campaign for it.

Smith, however, had to leave the campaign trail in recent weeks to care for his wife after she had surgery for a shoulder injury and her brother died.

“I felt guilty about not being on the campaign trail, but I had to put family first,” he said.

Lauer, a Cummins Inc. engineer and Bartholomew County Council member, campaigned on the issue of school choice and said that his desire as the District 59 representative would be to propose legislation that would introduce education savings accounts. Another key topic in his campaign was funding for roads. He proposed using money in the state reserves rather than raising taxes.

Wilson’s candidacy was motivated by a desire to reform what he described as critical defects in the tax assessment and appeals process that are costing Indiana cities and counties vital budget revenue to fund schools and emergency services.

Pitman, the former executive director of Mill Race Center, said he entered the election to call attention to the injustices and lack of political commitment to the needs of lower-income Hoosiers and others overlooked by society. He said he also wants the state’s growing number of older adults to be viewed as a valuable community resource.

“I’m just grateful to win and to have succeeded with such a class competitor like Dale,” Pitman said.

Pitman said he has a lot of work to do for the fall election, but thinks the time for a change in representative could be now because of how Republicans at the state level have handled some issues.

“As I went around and talked to a number of people, folks who said they were Republican would vote Republican in the primary but that I would have their support in the fall,” Pitman said.

Nowlin, a Columbus North High School math teacher who chairs the math departments at North and Northside Middle School, said one motivation for seeking the office is that it’s important for educators be included in lawmakers’ discussions and decisions. He noted that only one practicing classroom teacher currently serves in the Indiana Legislature.

How they voted

State representative District 59

Republican

Ryan Lauer; 4,825

Milo Smith; 5,882

Lew Wilson; 1,745

Democrat

Dale Nowlin; 2,117

Bob Pitman; 2,472

SHARE
Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.