For the second time in two years, a battle is brewing between Newburgh doctor Larry Bucshon and Owen County Tea Party activist Kristi Risk. In 2010, Bucshon and Risk were part of a crowded GOP primary field vying for the open congressional seat in the 19-county district in western and southern Indiana. Bucshon won, but not by much besting Risk by only four percent of the vote.
In an interview with the Evansville Courier & Press, Bucshon cast this latest contest with Risk as a choice between what he called his “realistic and responsible approach to conservative reform” and Risk’s “misplaced pursuit of ideological purity.” Hot button issues such as health care and job creation are on the table once again, but University of Southern Indiana political scientist
Campaign Financing Makes A Difference
Dr. Brian Posler says they may not be what the election hinges on. Posler says this time around it could come down to each candidate’s monetary support.
“Dollars raised is often a very good predictor of the primary race,” he says. “If he’s been successful at raising a lot more dollars than she, then that just adds to that air of invincibility. If he’s got this big war chest that he uses and she doesn’t, that’s a big telling point. But if it’s really competitive on the money raising side, then she might have the resources to mount an effective campaign. That’s the key ingredient.”
Bucshon currently has about $260,000 in cash on hand, but he says he’s raised nearly three times that during his first term in office.
“We’ve raised over $600,000 since the last election,” he says. “You know, that’s the most really any Republican has raised in this district in over 30 years. So it’s going okay.”
While the freshman congressman has solid support from individuals, more than $400,000 of his fundraising total is from super PACS.
Kristi Risk did not to respond to multiple requests for an interview. According to the Federal Election Commission, her campaign has received about $45,000 in support. She has 8,000 in the bank. Individual contributors donated almost that entire amount. Like two years ago, Risk is running a grassroots, volunteer-fueled campaign while Buschon enjoys major-party support.
Away From The Money, To The Issues
Money aside, Bucshon says he has proven himself a worthy conservative in his two years in Congress.
“I think the biggest thing is you have to be responsible when you’re in a position like mine and you can’t just take hard-line ideological positions that are going to hurt the district and hurt the country, ultimately,” he says.
In August, Bucshon voted to raise the debt ceiling by nearly $2.4 trillion , to avoid national default. Risk disagrees with that vote. She says Congress must make painful spending cuts now to reduce the national debt or face cutting much more in the future.
Something they do seem to agree on is job creation. Bucshon says if Indiana is going to have a prosperous economy with plenty of new jobs, it’s going to come from the private sector and entrepreneurs, not the federal government.
“If you look at it from the federal standpoint, we have to create a standpoint where private sector can create private sector jobs,” he says. “The feds can hire federal workers, but they can’t hire workers at your local business.”
According to her campaign website, Kristi Risk believes in job creation through tax reform and the removal of what she calls “burdensome federal regulations.” Both candidates suggest less federal oversight means more jobs for Indiana.
Brian Posler, the USI political scientist, says big issues like job creation matter in a campaign, but victory for either candidate will largely be decided on money in the bank.
“I’d say we can never prognosticate, but I would be surprised if a challenger was able to mount the amount of resources to be really competitive in a primary race against an incumbent like Bucshon,” he says.
The winner of the GOP primary will take on presumptive Democratic nominee Dave Crooks and Libertarian Bart Gadau in November.