Some conservatives are eyeing U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, a Republican, warily.
Curt Nisly, the husband of Elkhart County Republican Party Chairwoman Mary Nisly, is even thinking about challenging her in the 2014 GOP primary, though Walorski’s vote last week against legislation ending the federal government shutdown has tempered his opposition.
“We’re still looking at what options there are. We haven’t totally shut the door,” Nisly said Monday, Oct. 21.
Walorski, for her part, kept largely mum on the apparent moderate-conservative GOP split in responding to a series of Elkhart Truth queries on the matter. She plans to run again in 2014, Walorski spokeswoman Elizabeth Guyton said in an email Monday, and “remains focused on working across the aisle to find common-sense solutions to our nation’s problems.”
Those dissatisfied with Walorski’s record as too in line with moderate Republicans have been toying with the idea of a challenge since July, according to Nisly.
Indeed, had Walorski voted for the measure last week that ended the government shutdown — a fix blasted by conservative GOP critics as insufficient in reducing the U.S. debt — he would’ve been “ready to make an announcement.”
Similarly, public rumblings of a possible GOP challenge emerged last August when local critics of the Affordable Care Act pressed Walorski, a foe of the health care overhaul, to redouble her efforts to halt the initiative.
As is, Nisly still has his doubts, saying Walorski, serving her first term in the House, has voted with “the Republican establishment quite often.” Reduction of U.S. debt is a chief concern for Nisly, and he sounds a conservative, small government message, calling for elimination of the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
He’d also like to abolish the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the federal income tax.
Tea party elements had been carefully watching how Walorski would weigh in on the shutdown issue, said Nisly, who’s never before run for office, and the possibility of a GOP challenge based on her vote had been conveyed to her. That said, he shied from pigeonholing the apparent conservative elements leery of her.
“I’m not going to put labels on them,” said Nisly of Goshen, who operates a computer tech firm. “There are plenty of people around, from many different areas, different interests.”
Among the specific issues Nisly criticized was Walorski’s vote last July against the so-called Amash amendment, a measure meant to halt a controversial National Security Agency data and intelligence gathering program viewed as an invasion of privacy by some. “She voted for security over liberty in that and I would always choose liberty over security,” said Nisly.
Guyton, Walorski’s spokeswoman, steered clear of any overtly partisan comment and stayed general in her email. Walorski “is committed to creating good-paying jobs to jump start the economy and send Hoosiers back to work. Her priority continues to be representing the opinions and needs of 2nd District Hoosiers in Washington,” said Guyton.
DEMOCRATIC, LIBERTARIAN HOPEFULS?
Meanwhile, a challenge from the Democratic Party seems to be shaping up. Unlike Nisly, John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, hardly views Walorski as too moderate of a voice, though.
“She’s proven herself to be a tea party Republican... (Walorski) isn’t voting in the bipartisan way she said she would (during the campaign) in 2012,” said Zody. He singled out her vote against the shutdown fix for criticism, the same vote backed by Nisly.
Joseph Bock, director of global health training at the University of Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health, is considering a bid, the South Bend Tribune reported Sunday. Bock didn’t return a call Monday seeking comment, but Zody said the man’s taking a serious look and would be a good candidate.
Carol McDaniel, chairwoman of Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District for the Democratic Party, said she planned to talk this week with Bock as well as Dan Morrison. Morrison ran as a Democrat for the post in the 2012 primary, eventually losing to Brendan Mullen, who himself narrowly lost to Walorski in the general election.
Mullen has ruled out another run.
Joe Ruiz, vice chairman of the Libertarian Party in St. Joseph County, said “a couple of people” have expressed interest in vying as Libertarians, but he didn’t provide any names. Like Nisly, he senses discontent toward Walorski in some sectors and described her vote against the shutdown fix as her “saving grace” for some critics.
Ruiz ran as a Libertarian in the 2nd District race in 2012, but isn’t planning to try again.
Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack.