After a narrow convention win, the Indiana Republican Party’s nominee for State Treasurer, Daniel Elliott, will face uncontested Democratic nominee, Jessica McClellan, in November.
The state office is open because current Treasurer Kelly Mitchell is not allowed to seek a third consecutive term.
Elliott won by just three votes on June 18, clinching the majority vote and becoming the party candidate. His political journey started in 2013, when he became the president of the Morgan County Redevelopment Commission, where he worked on infrastructure projects like power and sewer plants.
“I know that kind of stuff may not seem sexy to most but I just love it because you’re building your community. You’re helping that community grow and giving opportunities,” Elliott said.
This start in local politics, where he was later elected as a county councilor and chosen as the county chairman for the Republican Party, drew him to the treasurer’s office. Elliott made headlines in 2018 for pushing the GOP to keep anti-gay language in its platform, defining marriage as a union between a woman and a man.
For rural counties without the resources or finances, the Indiana Treasurer serves as a “last-resort” option for funding through the Indiana Bond Bank. Elliott said those funds were crucial to rural areas trying to develop infrastructure or expand broadband.
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“Rural Indiana is shrinking and people are leaving the rural areas, oftentimes because they don’t have choices. They need to have good jobs so they’re heading to the suburbs or the urban areas,” Elliott said. “(I have) a couple of children in college and I would love for them to be able to come back to rural Indiana where they grew up.”
Elliott said the College Choice 529 Savings Plan held a personal meaning to him as a poor kid from rural Nebraska, Indiana, an unincorporated community in Jennings County. The State Treasurer oversees the state’s education savings plan and encourages secondary education, whether the student pursues college or technical training.
“High school is not enough. It was in my parent’s day but not in my day,” Elliott said. “Whether you’re in an urban area or the rural areas — education is your ticket out of poverty. Period.”
Elliott’s own education in software application development and cybersecurity would be used to create standards for local governments looking to strengthen their cybersecurity, noting hacks have targeted even the smallest of municipalities.
“These were not some kid in mom’s basement who got bored. These are actually really bad state players: Russia, China (or) organized crime,” Elliott said. They’re looking for vulnerabilities constantly and they don’t care if it’s a small community or a large community.”
McClellan’s path to county government started over a decade ago, when she and her children left a domestic violence situation and became homeless in Monroe County.
“I was trying my best to find a place to stay and trying my best to cobble together jobs to make ends meet for me and my little kids,” McClellan said. “I was just doing the best I could and then I found county government. I fell in love with how close to the people and the local economy — local community — county government really was.”
McClellan started with the county’s assessor’s office, becoming a certified assessor. About six years ago, the seat for county treasurer opened up after the office made news several times for bad audits, missing items and credit card misuse.
“I thought … ‘I want to run for this office and go in there and make a difference; this is a place where I can really make some changes and make things better,’” McClellan said.
McClellan won the seat and a second term. Through her position, she worked with the state treasurer’s office with investing and financing options for local projects like schools and libraries.
“I would just absolutely love to be in that position and bring that idea of modernizing where we can, improving employees quality of life and giving them the tools to do their jobs,” she said. “Increasing customer service to our clients who would be local governments and units like schools and libraries. That’s what really drew me to this role.”
If elected, McClellan, who features her wife on her campaign website, would be the first openly LBGTQ person elected to statewide office.
McClellan incorporated services for unbanked and underbanked Hoosiers into her platform, noting that seniors, migrant workers, the impoverished or those with high medical costs might not be using the appropriate services. She proposes creating a resource list of financial institutions able to best work with those populations.
“There’s a whole sector of people that we can help improve their lives,” McClellan said. “(With) involvement from the state level to make sure that the word gets out because this is something that’s needed.”
McClellan also proposed better advertising the state’s college savings plan.
“What needs to happen in Indiana is that we need to really do a better job at getting more families to invest in that fund,” McClellan said. “I know that (several) counties have under 20% college degree attainment rates. … (Indiana) is a big manufacturing state but manufacturing is becoming more and more high tech. We need to make sure that our citizens are educated and able to get those jobs.”
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