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Abernathy seeks 5th District seat

by Tim Tedeschi - ttedeschi@chronicle-tribune.com

With this year’s municipal elections in the rearview mirror, eyes are beginning to turn toward the 2020 primary for congressional elections.

Susan Brooks (R) has announced she will not seek re-election for Indiana’s 5th District, which includes all of Grant, Madison, Tipton and Hamilton counties and portions of Marion, Blackford, Boone and Howard counties.

Former Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) Commissioner Kent Abernathy of Zionsville announced last month that he will seek the Republican nomination for the 5th District seat in the May 2020 primary.

Abernathy graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and went on to serve more than 30 years of active and reserve duty with the U.S. Army, Army Reserve and National Guard. He also worked for 15 years in the private sector as a corporate banker and business consultant.

In 2010, he joined Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration as chief of staff for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and in 2015, Gov. Mike Pence appointed him BMV Commissioner.

Abernathy said he sees his campaign and the opportunity to serve in Congress as an extension of his life spent serving his country.

“From my time in the military, I sort of internalized the motto of duty, honor, country,” he said. “Susan announced she wasn’t running for office and several folks reached out to me and it was sort of a natural fit. It was a way to continue service, quite frankly.”

Given his military background, Abernathy said if elected he would work to support and defend the Constitution and be an advocate for current military members and veterans issues.

“My background has put me in touch with all of those areas that are critical, certainly on the defense and veterans issues,” Abernathy said. “Congress is charged with raising the army and supporting the navy as it lines out in the Constitution. So if you get that wrong, nothing else really matters, right?”

He also said budget issues, specifically working toward reducing the approximately $22 trillion national deficit, will be a priority for him.

“The interest we pay on the current debt would fund roughly just under 50 percent of the current defense budget, which to me is alarming,” he said. “Were interest rates to rise, I think it poses a real national threat ... You can’t run your household that way, and I just think it’s an irresponsible way to run government.”

Abernathy said healthcare is another issue he is focusing on with his campaign, including fighting the opioid epidemic. He noted that 53 percent of Americans have insurance provided by employers, and he would advocate for reforming and streamlining that current system with more flexibility.

“I think there’s a process in place, and we just need to find a way to control the costs,” he said.

“I think we need to give the states more control over Medicare. We need to find ways to control the administrative costs of healthcare.”

Abernathy said he is glad to see a number of qualified candidates have entered the race, but he believes his breadth and depth of experience in a variety of areas sets him apart in the primary field.

His experience in the private sector gives Abernathy knowledge of how policies affect businesses and how to promote growth in the job market and economy, he said. He also highlighted that while BMV Commissioner he helped achieve bipartisan passage of an overhaul of Indiana’s motor vehicle code which led to a 96.3 percent satisfaction rating from BMV customers.

“Our customers are citizens, who are literally our bosses, and to have a 96.3 percent boss satisfaction rating is the way I look at it, from the citizens, is pretty astounding,” he said. “I’ve demonstrated I can get things done.”

Abernathy and his wife Karen have been married for 39 years and have three sons and four grandchildren.

Other Republicans who have entered the 5th District race include pastor Micah Beckwith, Timmy Global Health founder Chuck Dietzen, nurse and businesswoman Beth Henderson, Indiana Treasurer Kelly Mitchell and fund accountant Danny Niederberger.

Former state representative Steve Braun had entered the race but has suspended his campaign as of now for health reasons, and it is unclear whether he will re-enter the race.

Democrats in the race include scientist Jennifer Christie, former state representative Christina Hale, Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Jacobs and Dee Thornton, who lost to Brooks as the Democratic nominee in 2018.