Indiana Election 2011 | Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations

Young and Hill Neck-and-Neck in Indiana’s 9th District

The state's largest congressional district is the subject of debate for three men touting their beliefs on fiscal responsibility and stimulus spending.

9th District Candidates

  • Baron Hill

    Image 1 of 2

    Photo: Courtesy Photo

    Incumbent Democrat Baron Hill

  • A Call from Hankins

    Image 2 of 2

    Photo: Regan McCarthy

    Todd Young takes a congratulatory phone call from GOP runner-up Travis Hankins during May's primary.

For almost two years, 9th District Republican candidate Todd Young has been canvassing the 20 counties he hopes to represent, preaching fiscal conservatism, smaller government and a change from Baron Hill.  Hill walked through each of those 20 counties over the summer and says though some people have questions about his votes, he’s most plagued by misinformation.  And in a year where few seats seem safe, Libertarian Greg Knott is seeking to partially re-write how government works.

In each of his five terms in office, Baron Hill has made it his trademark to walk through each of the 20 counties in the 9th District and talk to his constituents. When Hill walks through Democratic-leaning Bloomington, he says it’s friendly territory, but he admits on travels through other, more conservative counties, he’s faced some pointed questions, especially about his vote for national health care reform.  But Hill defends those votes and said he’s seen some voters come around to his way of thinking when he explains his methodology.

“The more I explain what the health care benefits in that bill are, the more people are acceptable,” Hill said.  “But there’s so much information – misinformation – out there about health care.  I’m still getting remarks about the death squads.  We all know that there’s nothing in that bill that’s going to ration health care or create death squads for people, where people are going to be forced to die.  But yet I’m still getting those concerns.  And it’s just a shame that people have distorted the truth for political gain, in my view.”

But first-time candidate Todd Young – whose wife is related to former Indiana Senator and Vice President Dan Quayle – says the real debate is about spending – spending which he said both parties have let get out of control.  With as many as 100 seats up for grabs in this year’s election, Young said the new group of freshman representatives could have a substantial impact on how dollars are spent.

“I think this new freshman class, in this atmosphere, is going to be able to hold their leaders’ feet to the fire, should they ever lose their way,” Young said. “I think this freshman class will be a new generation of principled leaders that go to Washington to actually do what they say and say what they mean and that’s the sort of leader I want to be.”

Hill, who said he will not run a campaign separating himself from President Obama, even as the Commander-in-Chief’s approval ratings continue to suffer, counters by saying it was the feet of Congress which were held to the fire before the stimulus package was approved…

“We were called back to Washington right after the elections to listen to economists to tell us what to expect if we didn’t do anything,” Hill said. “And they were telling us ‘Get ready for a depression along the lines of the 1930s if you don’t act now.’ And so we did a lot of things that Congress had to do to prevent that from happening.”

But Young said that philosophy has proven incorrect.

“We were told that if we didn’t pass this spending bill – the so-called stimulus package that amounts to a trillion dollars when you add in interest payments – that we could see unemployment rates get up to eight percent,” Young said. “Well here in the state of Indiana, we’re actually experiencing unemployment rates that are over ten percent.  So on its own merits, this ‘spend, spend, spend’ approach to creating jobs is not one that works.”

Meanwhile, Libertarian Greg Knott has quietly mounted a campaign based on a six-point platform which includes reforming tax structures and ending overseas wars.  Knott said he doesn’t expect to win the race, but still hopes he can change the debate in the district and make people believe once more in the people they find on the ballot.

“Maybe people won’t be thinking about trying to vote for the lesser of two evils,” Knott said.  “Which in my mind is…still evil.”

Political watchers – including Congressional Quarterly and both candidates themselves – classify the race as too close to call.  But Young said for his party, predicted to make gains in November, the 9th District seat may prove important.

“The keys to the Speaker’s office may literally lie here in Southern Indiana,” he said. “By that I mean this could come down to one or two seats.”

Both national parties have taken notice and are planning ad buys in advance of Election Day.  And with four media markets to cover, how each candidate tailors his message to the ideologically split district may determine whether the 9th flip-flops for the GOP or fortifies the Democrats.