By Carolyn McCrady
ZeNai Brooks is part of a Democratic team that when elected will, she says, begin the process of balancing the scales of social and economic justice in Indiana.
Voters have the chance to bring into office the most diverse slate of candidates in Indiana history. Voting a straight Democratic ticket means no one can gerrymander statewide candidates. Every vote counts in this scenario.
“Right now, the Indiana legislature is controlled by a super majority of Republicans whose agenda has left Black, brown and rural communities without the voice they need to be represented. This is one of the main reasons I am running for the office of State Auditor,” said Brooks.
Hailing from Fort Wayne, Brooks now lives in Indianapolis and has spent 15 years in the accounting and finance professions. A volunteer on a number of boards that serve various communities, she will bring to the office a highly developed skill set in addition to a strong desire to see more resources going where they are needed.
“There needs to be more intentionality in directing state funds to more diverse communities. Right now, there is a tendency to partner with larger agencies but in order to bring about equity we need to be more intentional about directing dollars to agencies that are about community-focused work. In this way, we can begin to impact Indiana’s biggest issues of food insecurity, access to health care and quality education.”
As State Auditor and as a member of the State Board of Finance, Brooks would oversee state finances and examine the impact of state dollars sent to counties and agencies.
“I believe that part of government’s role is to serve all communities, especially those who are underserved and under-resourced. If elected, I would make sure all communities understood how the state is spending tax dollars, who the state is doing business with, and in general, the impact of those dollars.”
Brooks adds that when she and Jessica McClellan, who is running for State Treasurer, are in office, they can play a strong role in adding checks, balances and accountability to the process.
These issues are now a problem because currently a Republican super majority directs budget allocations. As members of the State Board of Finance, she and McClellan would be charged with deciding final approval of any transfers that take place.
“As part of the process, we can work with county auditors and comptrollers to ensure they have the proper controls in place. We can also track financial reporting of agencies and work with state agencies to see where gaps are. In this way, we can make sure that cities like Gary have the resources they need to address social and economic issues.”
The statewide ticket includes three women, one of whom is Black and another who is LGBTQ, which has never happened before. Also on the ticket is another white woman, Destiny Wells, running for Secretary of State; she is a veteran.
Tom McDermott, current mayor of Hammond, is challenging Todd Young for one of Indiana’s Senate seats, and Representative Frank Mrvan is fending off a challenge from an avowed Trump supporter, Ruth Green of Crown Point.
“This is really an historic election. The last time an African American was elected to statewide office was 30 years ago. Her name was Pam Carter and she was the Attorney General.
“We intend to win these races and change the way things get done in our state for the betterment of the people. We will institute checks and balances with public spending, expand voter access and advocate for the people.”
Brooks believes people in Indiana are ready for a change.
“The attack on women’s rights, the State not listening to women through its continuing attacks on abortion and women’s health, and with communities continuing to suffer even though the State ended the year with more than a $6 billion surplus, people feel their voices are not heard, but all voices need to be heard. That is why we need more young people, more people of color and women to hold public office.”