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Longtime Indiana State Rep. Faces First-Ever Primary Challenge

Indiana State Representative Ed Clere at the Floyd County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner.
Indiana State Representative Ed Clere at the Floyd County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner.

A new candidate has thrown their hat in the ring to represent Southern Indiana in the state legislature.

New Albany resident Tom Jones announced last week that he’s challenging incumbent Republican state Rep. Ed Clere in next year’s primary to represent District 72. Jones said if elected, his more than three decades in the financial industry could benefit Floyd County at the state level.

“The consistent theme in my approach is one of team-building,” he said. “It's one of working together, trying to achieve consensus as best as possible. Those things just seem to be something relevant to today's public sphere. There's a lot of divisiveness, there's a lot of talking at people, as opposed to talking with people.”

Jones spent the first half of his 33-year financial career as a banker and now works as an independent financial advisor. He has also served on the boards for the Southern Indiana Economic Development Council and the Floyd Memorial Hospital Foundation, along with other local groups.

Using that background, Jones hopes to focus on bridging the gap between business-mindedness and community building. In his announcement, Jones said Southern Indiana has missed out on “great ideas” because state leaders “weren’t on the same page” as local leaders, though he didn’t list any specific examples or place blame on his opponent.

“I'm not going to pinpoint one [issue] or speak to anything specifically, but at various times under various regimes and various administrations, it just felt like there was that disconnect,” Jones said. “At times, it's been better, and at times, it's been worse. But it just seems to me there's maybe a lack of consistency overall in that regard. And my hope is to maybe bring some of that consistency.”

Clere is in his seventh term serving Indiana’s District 72, which includes Floyd County. But for the first time during his tenure, the incumbent won’t be the only Republican on next year’s primary ballot.

Clere said having an in-party challenger does not change his plans for the upcoming campaign.

“I believe that as long as I continue to work hard for my district and to be responsive to my constituents, the politics will take care of themselves,” Clere said. “That has been my experience so far, and I plan to keep approaching it that way.”

During his 13 years in the legislature, Clere has served on committees for Ways and Means, Education and Public Policy. He chairs the Health and Medicaid subcommittee within Ways and Means.

Though he’s not yet focused on campaigning, Clere said he takes pride in keeping his finger on the pulse of Floyd County and not “only showing up during election time.”

“I show up all the time, and I'm going to keep showing up,” Clere said. “And to the extent that I have a campaign plan at this point, that's my plan — to keep showing up and to keep responding to the needs of my district and trying to be there for my constituents, both locally and in Indianapolis.”

John, News Editor for LPM, is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Email John at jboyle@lpm.org.