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Photo: Mike Pence Campaign
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Photo: Brad Bookout's Campaign
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Photo: Rex Bell's Campaign
Voters in Indiana’s 6th Congressional District will elect a new Congressman this year after sending the same man to Washington for a decade. This year’s candidates know it is an important choice, so they are trying to make it easy by comparing themselves to a well-known politician.
“You’re No Jack Kennedy”
“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy,” Senator Lloyd Benson said to to Senator Dan Quayle during a 1988 vice-presidential debate. ”I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
The line has become part of the political lexicon and is still one of politics’ most quoted lines. Candidates in this year’s race are taking a similar approach. They regularly compare themselves to politicians who came before. In this year’s race for Indiana Senator, candidate Richard Mourdock has compared his opponent Joe Donnelly to Barack Obama and Harry Reid.
In the 6th Congressional District, the politician to align with or distance yourself from is the current representative, Republican Mike Pence. So, who wants to be “like Mike?” Republican Luke Messer does.
“If you like Congressman Mike Pence, we’re going to have very similar philosophy in the way we approach the job,” he says.
His opponent, Democrat Brad Bookout, seems to agree calling Messer “a clone” of Pence.
It’s All About Jobs
Both candidates also agree that jobs and growing the bruised economy are the issue of this year’s election season.
Bookout touts his record as a job creator, first as a homebuilder with a multi-generation family business, then with economic development in Delaware County.
“I know what it takes,” Bokoout says. “I’ve sat at the table and negotiated and talked with companies and found out what they wanted. And I helped put together the incentive packages to help bring them here.”
Bookout tells voters that he wants them to look at his plans now.
“I have compiled my plans into a campaign book called ‘The Super Plan for Jobs in the 6th Congressional District.’ At over 500 pages, there are job-creating ideas that we can do and we can enact and make our community a better place,” he says.
Messer, a former state representative, believes there is a different approach that will net jobs for the district.
“But again, I will tell you that as I travel the 19 counties of this district, they’re not really looking for a representative with a phone book of new ideas that the federal government can implement to try to move our country forward,” he says. “I think we need a major tax reform and on a scale of a flat tax or a national sales tax.”
The 6th District ballot also includes Libertarian Rex Bell, who believes, as all Libertarians do, that government should be limited to only its Constitutional powers. Bell also believes a tax change would create jobs.
“I think one of the most important things we can do to bring jobs back is to change the tax structure in the United States,” Bell says. “Certainly the income tax, corporate income tax. It’s a job killer because it’s a business killer.”
Becoming A Freshman Representative
With Pence running for Governor, whoever wins the seat will be a Congressional freshman. Messer says he has not worried about being a freshman if he wins. He thinks he might have some good company.
“One of the things that makes that a little different is that 80 plus freshmen came into the Chamber just two years ago, right, and so depending on the election this time, you could have another 30 or 40 new freshmen in again,” he says. “So, it’s possible that even in your first year, you’d have as much seniority as almost a quarter to a third of the Chamber.”
Both men pledge to get to work right away if sent to Washington.
“I can create jobs all day long, but it’s not enough,” Bookout says. “And that’s why I have identified that running for Congress is something that I have to do. That’s the bully pulpit that I will stand on to create jobs here in the 6th District.”
After this summer’s redistricting, the 6th District is geographically huge – with all or part of 19 counties. As one candidate likes to put it, three hours north-to-south and two hours east-to-west. That’s a lot of diverse voters to impress on November 6.