Gerrymandering, or redistricting favorably for a political party, is nothing new. The word Gerry-mander has been in use since the early 1800s, but the process has probably been in use for well over two hundred years. It serves political parties and serves neither the political process nor the voter.
Redistricting has been an issue since before Indiana had even achieved statehood; it is bewildering that this hasn't been resolved yet. "[Republican U.S. Rep. Todd] Rokita proposed a similar redistricting plan about a decade ago when he was [Indiana] secretary of state, but the Legislature rejected his idea. In fact, his party drew boundaries that excluded Rokita from his own congressional district." "This isn't the way a representative democracy is supposed to work."
Placed within a time-domain reference, some of what seems as historical political corruption, also had the constraints of technology. However today our primary transportation is not horseback but politicians continue to use the excuse that redistricting is difficult. We agree, gerrymandering is difficult, but counter that non-partisan redistricting is easy. Presently, with a desktop computer purchased at a local retailer, we are capable of executing geo-graph searches of census blocks for the entirety of Indiana within seconds.
Partisan redistricting prevents your vote from being meaningful. The proclamation, "I am not going to vote because it doesn't matter", unfortunately is true. It is true and wrong. We are a nation, built on the belief "for the people, by the people". Indeed, one of the mantras that lead to the American Revolution was "taxation without representation". Today we have misrepresentation. Somehow liberal districts have fingers out into conservative areas - a county away. And conversely the same with conservative districts with peninsulas into liberal pools. This gerrymandering does not serve the local people, it serves politicians.
"Lead or Leave sounds like a lobbyist group that wants to put Democrats back in power." This statement is patently incorrect. Non-partisan redistricting will actually serve the people within districts better because they will have representation that reflects them. In certain districts this will help Democrats and in other districts, this will serve Republicans. This outcome is inconsequential because the point is to serve the people of the community or district in which they live. We want to polarize Hoosiers, independent of party affiliation: Democrat, Independent, Republican, or Tea Party, into voicing their right to have a fair election!
With redistricting in the hands of politicians and not non-partisan commissions, voters unfortunately need to be vigilant on the subject. This allowance for political redistricting needs to be laid to rest. We need our representatives to Lead or Leave.
Tom Sugar's figurative call to civic duty began with an innocent telephone call from a political science professor, Allen Maxwell, in the summer of 1985. "Maxwell asked Sugar if he might be interested in meeting a fellow Democrat running for Congress who needed someone to help organize the county for the fall election." "For the young Sugar, just in his twenties, the meeting with [Jim] Jontz was his introduction into what came to be a grueling effort to convince those in [Indiana's] Fifth Congressional District that Jontz was the best man to represent them in Washington, D.C."
A succinct summary of Tom's life and accomplishments exists on public record. The following was entered into the official minutes of the United States Senate floor on behalf of former IN Senator Evan Bayh:
Commending Thomas O. Sugar
Mr. President, I rise today to honor Mr. Thomas O. Sugar, who has served as one of my most valued and trusted aides in the U.S. Senate and in the Indiana Governor's office. I am proud to have this opportunity to recognize Tom for the remarkable service he has rendered on behalf of the people of Indiana.
Tom is a native of Kokomo, IN, an auto town in the heart of our proud manufacturing State. Tom never forgot where he came from, and he has been a faithful and passionate emissary of the hard-working, middle-class Hoosiers who inspired him to enter public service in the first place.
Tom's career in government and politics began when he served as a campaign field organizer for Jim Jontz, who represented Indiana's fifth Congressional District. Throughout his 7 years of service for Congressman Jontz, Tom held a variety of positions, culminating in his ascension to chief of staff in 1991.
I was fortunate to have Tom join my staff as director of communication and planning during my second term as Indiana Governor. Among his many achievements, Tom orchestrated a successful conference on promoting responsible fatherhood that brought together leaders of the most successful fatherhood programs in the country. He also helped plan the Governor's adoption initiative, heralding needed reforms in Indiana's adoption system.
Tom served as my campaign manager for my first Senate race in 1998 and then took over as my chief of staff, a position he has held for over a decade. Tom has carried out this demanding role with unceasing skill, diplomacy, and determination. His portfolio has been considerable. Tom has been a top adviser on a range of significant policy issues, helping to improve our Nation's educational system, supporting working families, strengthening national security, and expanding volunteer opportunities for Americans to serve their country.
In addition to playing a crucial role on policy issues, Tom has served as a leader and a mentor to members of my staff in both my Indiana and Washington offices. Tom had a knack for discovering new talent, and he helped hone the professional development of countless public servants.
Most importantly, Tom is a devoted father to his sons, Jackson and Carter, and a loving husband to his wife Nancy. Tom cares about the people he works with and treats his colleagues like extended family. Tom was always ready with a kind word during times of plenty and an understanding ear during periods of personal difficulty and loss.
This week, Tom leaves my office to pursue a new opportunity helping lower income students finish their college and postsecondary education. The newly formed National Consortium for College Completion is extraordinarily lucky to have Tom as a part of their organization. While I will deeply miss having Tom on my Senate staff, I look forward to hearing about the work he will do on behalf of students in need across our country.
Tom is a trusted aide, a dear friend, and a true-blue Hoosier whose contributions to the State of Indiana are immeasurable.
Mr. President, I am pleased to recognize Tom's extraordinary contributions to this body, and I wish him the best of luck in his future pursuits.
Currently, Tom is responsible for Complete College America’s external and legislative affairs. As former chief of staff to a U.S. senator and nearly 25 years working in government and political campaigns, Tom brings a wealth of experience building grassroots initiatives and engaging with a variety of stakeholders at state and federal tiers of government.
As senior vice president, Tom oversees engagement with federal policy initiatives, monitors legislative activity relevant to the college completion agenda at both the federal and state levels, and manages Complete College America’s relationships with external partners in state and federal policy venues.
When Tom is not at work or home, you may find him with Boy Scout Troop 358 in Zionsville, which he has been apart of for the last ten years. He realizes the importance of mentoring youth with leadership and self-preservative skills, and instilling a respect and appreciation of nature. Tom also enjoys a good hike.
1. Ross, Doug, NWI Times, Sugar wants to remove sour grapes in redistricting, Sept.6, 2015
2. King, Douglas M. et al.: Geo-Graphs in Planar Graph Partitioning, Vol. 60, No.5, Sept-Oct 2012, p.1226
3. Boomhower, Ray E. The People’s Choice: Congressman Jim Jontz of Indiana [p.85-86] (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 2012), 259 pp.
4. Bayh III, Birch Evans "Evan", United States Senate minutes, Vol.155, No.81, [p.S5941], Jun.2, 2009
5. Complete College America [completecollege.org], About, Tom Sugar Bio