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Meet the man Indiana elected as its first openly gay state senator

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — No surprise at the Statehouse on Wednesday as Republicans re-elected state Rep. Brian Bosma of Indianapolis to a sixth term as speaker of the House.

What was a surprise, Republicans are saying good-bye to state Sen. Mike Delph of Carmel. He lost his re-election bid Tuesday night. Delph held that Senate seat serving much of Wayne and Pike townships in Indianapolis and in western Carmel and Zionsville since 2005. 

Hoosier voters in what has been a Republican stronghold instead chose a Democrat, the first openly gay man to the Indiana Senate.

According to Noblesville’s public library, Ford also will be the first Democrat to serve Hamilton County in the General Assembly since Rep. George C. Wood in 1915.

J.D. Ford said, “I’m really excited that LGBTQ+ Hoosiers, for generations to come, will say,’ If he can do it, I can do it.’” 

Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, the University of Akron grad has a master’s degree from Purdue University Northwest and works as a substitute teacher. Ford moved to Indiana in 2005 for work.

“And stayed,” Ford said with a smile. “I love Indiana. Bought a home here and really put some roots down here.”

His first tried to beat Delph in 2014, but lost.

Ford said he learned a lot in the last four years. “Folks said to me yesterday, ‘Yeah, we voted for you, not because you’re gay, but because you were speaking to me, to my values.”

Chris Paulsen, CEO of the Indiana Youth Group said, “I think it’s great. It’s great that our youth can see someone that is like them represented at the Statehouse.” 

Indiana Youth Group serves LGBTQ+ youth statewide. Paulsen said Ford’s win means a lot to Indiana’s LGBTQ+ community. “I think it means we’ll be more visible. We’ll actually have a voice at the table, whereas before we’ve been a voice in the background.”

Ford said legislation particularly on education, the economy and equality among Hoosiers are on his mind. “That’s going to put Indiana back on track.”

Ford will be sworn in Nov. 20 on Organization Day.