A former state lawmaker, two military veterans and a small business owner are in a crowded primary race for a chance to nab the new Indiana House seat representing Boone and Hendricks counties.
Republicans Kent Abernathy, Becky Cash, Douglas Rapp and Matt Whetstone are vying for their party’s nomination for the new Indiana House District 25 in the May 3 primary.
District 25, created when the Legislature drew new House maps this year, spans southeastern and some of central Boone County and the northeast corner of Hendricks County. It encompasses Zionsville, Whitestown and part of Brownsburg.
No Democratic candidate has filed to run for the seat, so the Republican who wins the primary could likely be the representative for District 25.
Abernathy has lived three professional lives, he said, from his experiences serving in the military to working in banking and state government.
He joined the Army after high school and was on active duty for seven years before pursuing a career in banking, where he was vice president of National City Bank and Bank One in the ‘90s.
In 2003, he returned to active duty in the Army for six years, where he spent two tours at the Pentagon and one in Iraq.
While in Iraq, he met then-Gov. Mitch Daniels, and in 2010 he went to work for his administration as the chief of staff of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Abernathy then continued to work in state government under Gov. Mike Pence as the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles Commissioner for two years.
“The bottom line is, when you look at all candidates, I think that quite frankly, my broad background and experience and record of success makes me stand out,” Abernathy told the Indianapolis Business Journal.
Abernathy chose running for the new District 25 as his next venture because he said the Legislature needs leaders who “put Hoosier values first.”
This would be his second time running for elected office. He was one of several Republicans in 2020 who ran in the 5th Congressional District primary, which U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz won.
Abernathy’s top priority is supporting Hoosier values, which he said includes protecting individual liberties and the Second Amendment, ensuring fair elections and supporting anti-abortion legislation.
Other priorities include expanding economic development, high-paying jobs and government efficiency when spending tax dollars. He said he would also support initiatives that help the Indiana Economic Development Corp., such as the legislation to expand the organization’s toolkit that passed earlier this year.
Though this is her first time running for elected office, Cash has been involved locally in the Republican Party for 16 years.
She participates in the Boone County Republican Women’s Club, and she often goes to the Statehouse to testify as a citizen on bills. Cash said she decided to run for office because she believes over the last two years, conservative beliefs and rights in Indiana have been infringed upon.
“I’ve already been in the trenches fighting for the rights, the freedoms, the liberties of the people of District 25,” Cash said.
Outside of politics, Cash is a naturopathic practitioner — meaning she diagnoses and treats clients using natural medicine and remedies — and she owns Indy Natural Health Center.
One of her top priorities is medical freedom, and she supports legislation to ban businesses from requiring any vaccinations, including the COVID-19 vaccine, which was a hot topic of debate in this year’s legislative session. She said another priority is focusing on improving mental health services.
Cash also supports parental rights in education and wants to see legislation passed regarding curriculum transparency. The House and Senate this session attempted to pass curriculum transparency legislation that would have also dictated how so-called “divisive concepts” could be taught in school, but both measures failed.
Cash noted she is not against teaching about racism and the history of racism in school.
But “it should be being taught as it happened, not based on our children now feeling guilty for being oppressors. And, definitely, minority children shouldn’t be being taught in school that they are oppressed and will forever be oppressed,” Cash said.
Rapp said the political process has become controlled by political industry, and he wants to give that power back to citizens.
Rapp is running for an elected office for the first time. He served in the Army and was part of the United States’ initial invasion of Iraq in 2003. He was decorated with two Bronze Stars and a Combat Infantryman Badge.
After retiring from the military in 2016, he worked for the Indiana Economic Development Corp. as an adviser for cyber national security for a little over a year. He now works as vice president of training and education at NineTwelve Institute, and he is pursuing a doctorate in information security from Purdue University.
He said his top priorities align with other conservatives: prioritizing anti-abortion laws, Second Amendment rights and general “strong conservative values.” He said another priority is to focus on what citizens want.
“We owe our citizens more than just sound bites,” Rapp said. “We need to start thinking about, you know, technology, workforce. You know, where is this state headed when it comes to industry?”
He said he wants to hold government accountable, especially when it veers too far into directly engaging in industry competition. He cited the IEDC’s recently revealed plans to arrange for the purchase of land in the Lebanon area for a potential mega-development as an example. He said it would be more appropriate for government economic development efforts to center on giving incentives and attracting businesses.
Rapp said he believes he’s a qualified candidate because he is not already involved in politics.
“We have to get away from seeing the fact that somebody’s political insider has an advantage,” Rapp said.
Whetstone, a former state lawmaker-turned-lobbyist, is looking to return to the Indiana House.
In a February interview with IBJ, Whetstone said he wanted to return to the Statehouse to continue to help people as an elected official, something he said he loves to do.
In an email this week, he said his top priorities are focused on public safety, infrastructure, mental health and personal liberties, including medical freedom and school curriculum transparency.
Whetstone served in the Indiana House for 11 years, resigning in 2007 to work as a lobbyist for Krieg DeVault LLP.
In between lobbying stints, he spent three years as a top parliamentarian to former House Speaker Brian Bosma from 2012 to 2015.
Following his time as a parliamentarian in the House, Whetstone went to work as a principal at the 1816 Inc. lobbying firm, where one of his biggest clients was the casino company Spectacle Entertainment. He went to work for Spectacle as executive vice president at the end of 2020 and left after five months.
Whetstone has said he feels his prior experience at the Statehouse makes him the best fit to represent the new District 25.
“That kind of institution is something I care for, and I think I can step in maybe more readily than anybody else that’s in the race,” Whetstone told IBJ in February.•