Following last summer’s redistricting, the boundaries for Indiana’s 6th Congressional district shifted south. The mostly rural district now encompasses counties from Muncie to the Ohio River. With such a large geographic area and no incumbent to battle, the primary ballot is full of Congressional hopefuls.
Mike Pence’s Departure Leaves Wide Open Field
For more than a decade, the 6th district elections have been influenced by the so-called “incumbency rule.” It’s a tenet in politics that voters will vote for a sitting Congressman on the ballot over a challenger. But this year, incumbent Republican Mike Pence, who has held the seat since 2000, is running for governor.
Thus, a wide-open field has attracted thirteen candidates vying for their party’s nomination – eight Republicans and five Democrats. With so many names for a voter to choose from in either party, the candidates have tried to distinguish themselves from the pack. For Democrat Susan Hall Heitzman, that task is easier than for most.
“That was the shock – to end up being the only woman on the ballot, and I found that that was very good timing,” she says.
Hall Heitzman says she is running because a woman should be running in this district but says her heart is not completely in the race.
“Well I sure looked for every way out of it I could find. (laugh) I’m very happy where I am,” she says. “And I have no aspirations for great wealth or fame.”
Frequent Democratic candidate George Holland is relying on his website to attract voters. It reads as a manifesto of concerns.
“I go back to 2-oh-5 in challenging Pence,” it says. “I’m very concerned about – and the American people better be concerned about – what’s happening with this debt thing, and make it very clearly known to their representatives to get out of the Middle East. These wars were based on lies, deceit, and greed.”
Two Republicans say they are just the average Joe. Indeed, both are named Joe. Joe Van Wye from Madison is a part-time self-employed electronics repairman.
“What distinguishes me is that I know people, I know what it’s like to make ends meet on a budget and to live within a budget,” he says.
Joe Sizemore has worked for the same factory in Shelbyville since he was 18. When he appeared with other Republican candidates at a Ball State University debate, he did so in jeans and a polo shirt.
“I got in local government, local county politics two years ago,” Sizemore says. “Seemed like everybody. You think people had it, but then you realize they don’t have it. So I’m here and I’m advocating for the working class people.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
Like other national candidates, most of the 6th District hopefuls agree job creation is the number one priority for the next Congressman. Democrat Brad Bookout works with economic development in Delaware County. He’s turned his jobs plan into a book.
“ ‘The Super Plan for Jobs in the 6th Congressional District.’ The book now is currently over 500 pages,” Bookout says. “We are in the process at this time of publishing the book.”
Democrat Jim Crone says he wants to look at re-industrializing Indiana.
“I think we need to not summarily dismiss industrialization and we need to consider how we partially do that,” Crone says.
Taking On The National Debt
But Republican Luke Messer, who may be the candidate with the most name recognition as a former state representative, says the GOP candidates are also concerned with another issue that they’ve taken front and center.
“In the Republican primary in particular, it’s spending,” he says. “People are concerned that we’re spending this nation into oblivion, that we’re leaving a legacy of debt for our grandkids and great-grandkids.
Financial analyst Don Bates, Junior says he has the financial know-how to stop government overspending. In a debate before Henry County GOP voters, he said the nation needs to go back to what it was spending several years ago.
“2008 spending levels are not good enough,” Bates says. “We need to go back to 2006. If we were at 2006 spending levels right now, we would be operating – we wouldn’t be making money, but we wouldn’t be $1.3 trillion more annually in debt.”
Former state senator Bill Frazier says the secret to solvency lies in America’s corporate tax rate.
“I think we should have a moratorium on corporate taxes – down to zero for at least a period of time – to give businesses an opportunity and a level playing field where they can compete in the world markets,” he says.
And Republican Travis Hankins, who narrowly lost the 9th District’s GOP primary to Todd Young two years ago, thinks Congress needs a new crop of Republicans.
“Okay, we have 239 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives and 220 of them have sold us out in every way imaginable,” he says.
Democrat Dan Bolling could not be reached for this story. Republicans John Hatter and Allen Smith have suspended their campaigns but did so too late to remove their names from the May 8 primary ballot.