Teaching qualifications

Michael Leppert: In the race for Secretary of State, commitment to service matters

I find myself teaching this simple lesson with more enthusiasm lately: elected positions in the US government exist as opportunities to serve. “Yeah, yeah, man, we know that” is often the expression I see on the faces of my students when I start. Once in a while, one of them might even say it out loud.

Students are generally reluctant to school the teacher in this way. Good thing. Mainly because it’s not so simple anymore.

When I was a young state employee and learning about the Indiana government hub, I remember wondering why anyone would want to be Indiana’s secretary of state, responsible for setting up businesses and supervising elections, among others.

In 2022, hiring a new secretary of state is up to Indiana voters, and the historically customary decision is anything but. Election monitoring is about as serious and threatened as it has been since the post-civil war era. The once superficial role has become a battleground for commitment to counting votes honestly and respecting honest results.

Work is no longer a resume builder, but it just might be the job that matters most. Who would have ever dreamed that this could be true?

Diego Morales, as the Republican Party nominee, struggled to answer questions on his resume, including details about his veteran status and his departure from the office of the Secretary of State he seeks to represent twice before.

All three candidates have military service in their backgrounds, with Democrat Destiny Wells a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard, having enlisted 19 years ago while a student at the University of ‘Indiana. She was deployed to Afghanistan in 2016-17.

There is still this word: service. Wanting to be Indiana’s secretary of state requires an overriding desire to serve, really serve, in that role. And doing that without an eye on the next thing, or a number of other things, is what this time in our history demands as well.

Morales has previously sought public office, losing in Indiana’s 4th congressional district primaries in 2018. As a candidate for secretary of state, he initially rejected the results of the 2020 presidential election, calling them a “scam,” according to the Associated Press. He has since declared President Biden to be the rightful president.

Wells, who announced his candidacy for secretary of state in January, told the Indiana Capital Chronicle that the 2020 election was not stolen and peddling that theory is a threat to democracy.

Libertarian Jeff Maurer announced his campaign in August 2021 and is currently serving a six-year enlistment in the Indiana Air National Guard. He is a development officer for an international libertarian nonprofit with a background in the tech industry. He has expressed doubts about the 2020 election, saying he accepts the results although it is hard to prove it was true.

Wells and Maurer have never run for office before.

Secretary of State is a vitally important service job at this time. In my opinion, an essential part of service is doing the things that build confidence in our electoral systems. A necessary element to achieve this goal would seem to be the need for the head of surveillance to believe in it himself.

Building trust in our electoral processes is easier when we have confidence in the qualifications of those we have appointed. It should not be a partisan decision to choose who is best suited for a job that is supposed to be fair.

One of Indiana’s great statesmen, US Representative Lee Hamilton once said that “the best cure for cynicism is involvement” and I totally agree.

Michael Leppert is an author, educator, and communications consultant in Indianapolis. He writes about government, politics and culture at MichaelLeppert.com. This commentary originally appeared on indianacapitalchronicle.com. Send feedback to [email protected]