- Associated Press - Monday, September 22, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Departing House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner, who has been the focus of an ethics probe, has effectively become a “ghost” candidate on November’s ballot after saying he will step down if he wins, his Democratic opponent said Monday.

Turner’s announcement Friday that he would resign from office in November if he is re-elected came just three weeks after Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma of Indianapolis said he would remove the embattled Turner from his leadership team after the election. If Turner does win, his decision to leave office would put the selection of a House candidate to local Republican activists.

Democratic House candidate Bob Ashley said the way in which Turner is leaving the General Assembly effectively means the voters in his central Indiana district have a choice between Ashley and whichever official local Republicans pick for the seat.

“I think they have a better choice of voting for me than they have of voting for a question mark,” Ashley said.

Ashley said he asked Turner to resign immediately during a phone call earlier Monday, but that Turner declined.

Turner said he was taking a job with a Christian megachurch group in Atlanta. In a lengthy statement Friday, he ticked down a list of accomplishments from his 24 years in office but made no mention of the ethics scandal.

An Associated Press investigation found that Turner helped defeat legislation earlier this year which would have been disastrous for his family’s nursing home business. Turner, through an ownership stake in Mainstreet Property Group, stood to lose millions in possible profits if a ban on nursing home construction was approved, according to Mainstreet documents obtained by the AP.

Throughout the past few months, Turner has said he did nothing wrong.

The House Ethics Committee cleared Turner of technical wrongdoing in April, but determined his lobbying on the issue in private exposed loopholes in the state’s ethics rules. A few months later, Turner’s son announced that one of the Turner family companies was being sold to an Ohio real estate investment company for $2.4 billion.

Shortly after the sale was announced Bosma said that Turner had “irreconcilable conflicts” and would be removed from his leadership team following the election.

Turner’s determination to run, despite the fact that he will not serve if elected, exposed some loopholes in the state’s election laws. Turner and another state lawmaker, Rep. Steve Braun, R-Carmel, announced they would be leaving the Legislature after the August 15 deadline for removing their names from the ballot.

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