ELKHART -- Jackie's back.
Four months after a narrow loss in her first U.S. House campaign, former State Rep. Jackie Walorski is gearing up for another run.
Citing her concern over the nation's economy and growing federal deficit, Walorski, R-Elkhart, announced Tuesday that she will be a candidate for Congress in 2012.
"I don't think there's a day to lose," Walorski said in a phone interview. "Seventeen months, it goes fast. I know it seems early, but I just think our economy's on life support in this country."
Walorski admitted her entry into the race may appear hasty, but the extra time will allow her to get a jump-start on fundraising and organizing. The more time she has to build coalitions of voters and talk to groups, she said, the better chance she has of claiming a seat in Congress.
In the 2010 election, Walorski didn't even form an exploratory committee until October 2009, but still managed to raise more than $1.3 million in campaign contributions, according to federal filing reports.
Despite those efforts, Walorski fell short, losing to U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, by 1.3 percent (about 2,500 votes).
Whether her new bid for Congress sets up a political rematch remains to be seen.
State legislators will redraw Indiana's nine congressional districts this year, based on 2010 census results. With the GOP controlling both chambers of the legislature and the governor's mansion, the 2nd District could be made far more winnable for a Republican.
Donnelly, now in his third term, has not declared whether he intends to seek re-election. His name has been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor or U.S. Senate in 2012.
No full-time campaign manager has been brought on, but a finance director is already on the job.
The Walorski campaign is also consulting with Brooks Kochvar, former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola, whom Donnelly ousted from office in 2006.
Since that time, Kochvar has served as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and managed campaigns for U.S. Sens. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
Walorski said she learned a lot during her first run for federal office, but hasn't spent much time thinking about what could have been if a few hundred votes had gone the other way.
"I'm not a second-guesser. I don't look over my shoulder," she said. "I just pick up the pieces, look at the people and then move forward."
MORE OF THE SAME
The 2012 Walorski campaign won't sound much different than the 2010 version, she said. The former three-term state legislator is still upset over the way Congress and President Barack Obama are handling the economy and the national debt.
Washington remains a place, she said, where spending more and cutting less is the mode of operation. Until that changes, voters will grow increasingly frustrated with their legislators.
"I think there's a huge leadership vacuum in D.C.," she said. "There's a huge leadership vacuum in the 2nd District."
Despite a clear message sent by Americans that change was necessary, Walorski said, no one seems to have gotten the message. She puts most of the blame on Democrats for blocking legislation produced by the GOP-controlled House.
But Walorski said Republicans have also resisted sitting down and working out common-sense solutions, something they promised to do.
"I think the Republican house is divided," she said. "I don't think there's a lot of consensus there, either. The more we push this stuff off, the more there's a lack of action."
GOOD NEWS FOR GOP
Though not a surprise, Walorski's announcement was met with excitement in Republican circles.
Elkhart County Republican chairman Dale Stickel said he believes this is the start of a journey that will end with Walorski as the area's next member of Congress.
If a challenger comes close to an incumbent, he said, he or she often wins in a rematch. For that reason, Stickel never doubted that Walorski was up for another round.
"I think it was a given," he said. "I expected it."
Peter Recchio, founder of the Tea Party of Michiana Action Coalition, said he was "delighted" by Walorski's decision.
Though many grassroots tea party groups have chosen not to back candidates, TEA-MAC has not shied away from it. Its members voted to endorse Walorski in 2010 and became active in her campaign, Recchio said, and he expected similar approval to be granted within a week.
"We think that the last election was certainly a learning experience for Jackie, as well as her campaign," he said. "That will carry over to a victory in this election."