Former Colts punter joins race for Indiana House seat


Former Indianapolis Colts punter Hunter Smith is running for a seat in the Indiana House of Representatives.

A Zionsville resident, Smith is running for the District 24 seat occupied by State Rep. Donna Schaibley. The district includes parts of Boone and Hamilton counties. Schaibley, a Republican from Carmel, is retiring from the state legislature when her term ends in 2024.

Democrat Josh Lowry of Westfield has also announced his candidacy for the District 24 seat.

Smith said he has been approached about running for office several times in the past 15 or so years but didn’t have the time. Elise Nieshalla, sworn in as state comptroller Dec. 1, and Valerie Swack, president of the Zionsville Republican Women’s Club, reached out to him again and said he should think of running as a state representative.

“When Donna Shaibley decided not to run, it was on my radar because (Nieshalla and Swack) suggested it to me,” Smith said. “My wife and I got together, prayed and talked through the logistics of it all, and decided it was the right time to do something like this, meaning public service.”

A Republican who played for the Colts from 1999 to 2008, Smith said if anything qualifies him for a government position, it’s his “lack of desire for a position in government.”

“Largely speaking, it’s clear that good leaders don’t feel like they can get anything done through public service,” Smith said. “I reject that idea. I feel like when you leave a vacuum of leadership, in any sector, that vacuum does get filled, and if you don’t fill it with good people, it’s filled with people who will do a bad job.”

Smith believes the American people want “a return to rational, sensible and sane public service,” which he plans to offer.

“I still believe American people are looking for people to step in and return power to their hands and produce economies and culture that works for everyone,” Smith said. “That is what I want to try and provide.”

Additionally, Smith plans to focus his campaign on listening to and understanding what District 24 constituents want.

“I do not intend to come in swinging a big stick or with a bunch of ideas that promise things that I cannot deliver on,” Smith said. “I want to know what my constituents value and understand how their legislature works.”

After retiring from the NFL, Smith bought property on U.S. 421 in Zionsville, where he operates WonderTree Farm. He said because of work on the farm, he has “strong personal doctrines concerning food, agriculture, and the environment.”

“I think that the Republican Party has abdicated the environment as the shoe that should be dear to it,” Smith said. “I don’t believe that either party actually values the environment. In spots, the parties value profitable enterprises that stem from an environmental message. And I reject that. I don’t mean to be an idealist, but I do in a sense believe we do have some say in the political specter regarding the environment and best uses of agriculture.”

Smith said he isn’t running to “be popular.” His sole interest is public service.

“I (was) an NFL football player for 12 years, a musician and have been in front of people most of my life,” Smith said. “This has nothing to do with parlaying a career in football into a career in public service. (I am) just someone who has started something and done it well, wishing to apply that same ethic to public service.”

Ann Marie Shambaugh contributed to this story.