A long-time community activist and volunteer has announced her candidacy to succeed the retiring Milo Smith in the General Assembly.

Mary Kohen, 57, has filed as a Democrat to run for the 59th District seat in the Indiana House of Representatives.

A regular attendee of the weekly Third House legislative sessions, Kohen has focused many of her questions and views this year on child welfare and education issues.

She was a critic last year of Smith, who serves as chairman of the House Elections and Apportionment Committee, for refusing to allow a vote on the establishment of an independent commission to draw legislative maps.

“We need to address the issues of fair redistricting, voters’ rights and continue to make sure we are a welcoming community to all,” Kohen said.

In explaining her reasons for running, Kohen said she and her husband — Columbus Human Rights Commission chairman Ian Kohen — are rooted in a desire to remove roadblocks to prevent others from achieving fundamental accomplishments.

By removing those obstacles, other will be able to provide for themselves and their families, as well as enrich their communities, she said.

Citing financial insecurity of her family during her childhood, Kohen said her father was provided an opportunity to obtain new job skills through hard work, dedication and perseverance.

Those opportunities, which she said are not made available to everyone who needs them today, should be restored, she said.

Besides continuing education or learning trade skills, Kohen also advocates a competitive living wage, confronting the opioid crisis, and ensuring availability of both affordable housing and childcare.

“I will challenge myself and other lawmakers to improve quality-of-life issues, open up new and different pathways, and advance learning from pre-K to adult education,” she said.

As of Wednesday morning, Kohen was one of six candidates to file for the 59th District seat in the May primary. Also running is fellow Democrat Dale Nowlin, as well as Republicans John D. Counceller, Joanne Flohr, Ryan Lauer and Lew Wilson.

Mary Kohen

Age: 57

Residence: Columbus

Hometown: Midland, Michigan

Education: Graduate of Mesa High School, located east of Phoenix, Arizona; attended Mesa Community College

Moved to Columbus: 1992

Community involvement: Volunteer parent at Southside Elementary, tutor for Book Buddies program, mentor for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, volunteer for Mill Race Marathon, judge for Columbus Human Rights Commission Benjamin J. King Essay Contest, volunteer for the WFIU fund drive, adult literacy tutor, former member of Columbus Service League, graduate of the Public Safety Citizen’s Academy, member of Bartholomew County Indivisible, member of Women4Change Indiana, active in the local Democratic Party, precinct committeeman for the Democratic Party

Family: Husband, Ian; adult sons, Max and Henry

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.