Editor's note: Today, Oct. 20, we profile the Libertarian hopeful for Indiana's 2nd District U.S. House seat, Joe Ruiz. On Friday we profiled Democrat Brendan Mullen and Republican Jackie Walorski while on Sunday we'll look at the many charges and countercharges made in the intense race.
The 2nd District, redrawn per the 2010 U.S. Census, now includes all of Elkhart County, seven other north-central Indiana counties and parts of two others. The three-term incumbent, U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, is running for the U.S. Senate this cycle.
Follow these links for more on the issues from Ruiz, Mullen and Walorski.
Here are links to earlier looks at Walorski, Mullen and Ruiz.Click here to read our look at the campaigns and pointed political ads of the candidates seeking Indiana's 2nd District U.S. House seat.
ELKHART — He's never been elected to public office.
Hasn't even run, until now.
That's no deterrent to Joe Ruiz, seeking Indiana's 2nd District U.S. House seat as a Libertarian. He sees it as a plus.
“I think if you look at the congressional approval rate, the fact that I'm not a politician and the fact that I have no experience in this arena is probably a positive thing,” he says. The notion of a “citizen politician,” he continues, is “an idea who's time has come.”
Ruiz is a social worker in Mishawaka, working with at-risk teens at the Family and Children's Center. He used to be a Democrat, but switched to the Libertarian Party, with its emphasis on reining in government power and expanding personal liberties, about three years ago. Now he thinks the status quo, government managed solely by Democrats and Republicans, has got to go.
“Republicans and Democrats have had their chance to make a difference and make things better, and no matter who's in control, it just keeps getting worse and worse,” he says.
Thus, he's waging a long-shot bid — third-party hopefuls have typically remained on the margins in U.S. politics — for a U.S. House post. The other candidates in the 2nd District race are Democrat Brendan Mullen and Republican Jackie Walorski.
Working with at-risk kids, one of Ruiz's big concerns is what he sees as the upredictability of the federal government toward funding of non-profit social services agencies.
People who are supposed to be getting help are “getting the carpet pulled right out from underneath of them,” Ruiz says, alluding to instances when the government unexpectedly pulls funding or grants from programs geared to the needy. “And I think we need to do something to make sure the federal government isn't going to make that a standard practice in the future because I don't think that the people can take it and I don't think it's fair.”
He's also got a few unorthodox ideas, unorthodox at least in the realm of the mainstream of the two-party system. A flat national sales tax ought to be implemented, replacing income tax and allowing for elimination of the Internal Revenue Service. A new program ought to be implemented allowing those who so desire to opt out of the Social Security system and prepare and invest for retirement on their own. U.S. troops in Afghanistan ought to be pulled out — right now.
Beyond specific issues, he just gets fed up sometimes with what he sees in the sphere of the two-party system. “I'm one of those guys that watches politics on TV and I yell at the TV like it's the Superbowl. So much of it just frustrates me,” he says.
'A LOT LESS GRIDLOCK'
Ruiz, 27, grew up in LaPorte County and got a bachelor's degree from Indiana Wesleyan before moving to Mishawaka. He'd always been a Democrat, thinking of it as the party less likely to interfere, but later shifted his allegiance to the Libertarians.
“Personal responsibility, individual freedom,” he says, citing the Libertarian principles that lured him to the party. “Those are things that I appreciate. I don't like being told what to do by someone miles and miles away in Washington. I want to be able to live my life as best as I can and I want my children to have the opportunity to be successful.”
As a third-party leader, he thinks he'd be better suited to help address partisan gridlock in the nation's capital than Democrats or Republicans. Those from the two major parties would more likely be obliged to tow the party line.
“But for me as a third-party guy, I'm coming in and saying, 'What coalitions can we make on specific issues?' If more people were like that, I think we would have a lot less gridlock,” Ruiz says.
His campaign hasn't had the same sort of profile as the Walorski and Mullen candidacies, which have spent heavy on TV ads, among other things. Ruiz had reported only $3,576 in campaign receipts through June 30, the latest figure available on the Federal Election Commission website, compared to $1.55 million for Walorski and $1.08 million for Mullen through Sept. 30.
But he's out there.
“My attention is with the people, I'm out there trying to help people, even when I'm at my day job,” Ruiz says. “So I don't think it would be fair to call me low-profile when I'm doing what a representative is supposed to be doing when they get elected. I'm helping people.”
And he remains adamant that the Libertarian Party is the way to go. “I think that the people have to be invited to put their vote elsewhere and I think that a new party needs to grow to the point where we're showing them the open door, the Republicans and Democrats, and not the other way around,” he says.