Kent Hizer is a salesman for steel products and a volunteer policeman. He’s running for a seat on the board of Penn County Township - population 64,000. It’s a modest office, but the odds of beating a long-serving Democrat are slim, and Hizer is the first to say so.
“I probably will not be elected,” he tells a Tea Party meeting at the VFW hall in nearby Mishawaka.
But Hizer is not here to campaign -- there are only three people in this crowd of 50 who could vote for him. But he sees hope, and finds solace, in the Tea Party because they seem to be on the same track as he is.
“I’m on a mission to hold elected officials accountable -- local officials, and all the way up the food chain,” says Hizer. “I want to get people engaged no matter what party they are.”
Hizer says he has uncovered a concrete example of malfeasance on the part of a current Penn Township board member. Hizer used a Freedom of Information Act query to uncover a scandal involving the township trustee, who reportedly used township funds for unauthorized personal expenses and failed to document official work performed by his girlfriend.
This feeling that public officials are running amok, he insists, is not a partisan issue.
Hizer, a conservative who was raised Democrat, says it has become uncomfortable to identify himself with the party because the Republicans have “lost their way.”
Even then, he doesn’t align with every conservative stance. After witnessing someone close to him die of a debilitating disease, he now believes in the right to choose a dignified death.
“This is not in the conservative playbook,” he says.
But Hizer is most animated about getting people to step up, politically.
“I wanted to tell people to stay engaged,” he says after his Tea Party presentation. “If we hold them accountable maybe they will start looking after our interests instead of looking after their own.”