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Primary fight on ticket for House race

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State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, is seeking re-election to his fifth consecutive term as Indiana’s District 59 representative.

But for the first time, he has a challenger in his party’s primary.

Bartholomew County Council President Ryan Lauer filed this week with the Indiana Secretary of State as a candidate in the Republican primary.

Lauer, 36, is passing on a re-election bid as the County Council District 3 representative because he believes residents deserve a choice within the Republican Party for the District 59 nominee and that people are ready for a change and new ideas.

Friends and constituents over the past few months have been urging him to run for the state House, and he decided about a week ago that he would do so, Lauer said.

“I think I can bring new, strong leadership to the capitol, ask tough questions of our government, listen to the concerns of the people in our community. I will be sure people have a strong voice in Indianapolis. And I’ll serve the people earnestly, honestly and with integrity,” Lauer said.

Smith, 63, said he was caught off guard by the news of Lauer’s filing for office.

“I’ve talked to Ryan several times about issues,” Smith said, adding that Lauer never offered any criticism of his work as a state representative.

District 59 includes a large portion of Bartholomew County, including most of Columbus.

Differences between the candidates will be clear during the course of the primary, Lauer said. However, Lauer said the level of funding for kindergarten students is one area where they have differences.

The issue of student funding was discussed at Monday’s Third House session, sponsored by the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce. School districts receive from the state one amount per student in Grades 1 through 12, but kindergarten students are funded at half the amount.

Smith said Tuesday that the state has to be careful how it spends money.

“In the state of Indiana, we have to live within our means, and there’s only so much money to pay for programs,” Smith said.

State revenues have been down for a few months, and until revenues increase there’s no extra money to pump into programs, like fully funding kindergarten students, Smith said.

A concern would be that giving more money to kindergarten now could result in a later cut in K-12 funding, such as when $300 million was cut during former Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration, Smith said.

“I disagree with him. I think we should fully fund our kindergarten,” Lauer said.

Smith said he’ll approach the primary by letting constituents consider his service and accomplishments.

“I’ll stand on my record of being responsive to everyone who contacts me and being available, and my record and knowing none of us pleases everyone all the time. I think I have offered legislation that has helped the people of Columbus,” he said.

Smith authored a state law that bans synthetic drugs known as “bath salts” and “spice.”

The drugs, which can be as addictive as marijuana and other illegal substances, were freely marketed on the Internet and in convenience stores.

He also introduced a law that requires property owners to inform renters if the property they are renting is in a flood plain.

That legislation arose from problems related to the June 2008 flood that damaged large sections of Columbus and Bartholomew County.

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