The campaign is on for Indiana’s 2nd District seat in the U.S. House, up for grabs in elections next year.
And more than a year ahead of the 2014 vote, the rhetoric is already getting fierce.
Joe Bock formally announced he’ll run as a Democrat for the seat now held by GOPer Jackie Walorski and Dan Morrison, a Democrat, plans to vie as well, though he’s planning a more formal announcement later.
“People here in northern Indiana have expressed consternation about how our government is running and concern that the current congresswoman, Jackie Walorski, is not really representing their interests,” Bock said in a phone interview Monday, Nov. 4. Indeed, he said if there are potential candidates who can run viable campaigns in districts represented by leaders “causing the dysfunction of our government, I almost feel like those people have a patriotic duty to run.”
Recalling the bitter, hard-fought campaign for the post in 2012 when Walorski was first elected, the National Republican Congressional Committee, or NRCC, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC, each issued statements Monday criticizing their political counterparts.
NRCC spokeswoman Katie Prill, referring to Bock’s stint as a state representative in Missouri, called him a “liberal Democrat ... who wants to increase taxes so he can continue the reckless spending in our nation’s capital.”
A DCCC press release said the agenda of Walorski and House Republicans is “disconnected” from reality. “One year from today, Indiana voters will have the opportunity to toss Congresswoman Walorski — and her wrong priorities — out of office, and replace her with a problem-solving Democrat...,” said DCCC spokeswoman Emily Bittner.
In 2012, Walorski, from the Elkhart area, narrowly defeated Democrat Brendan Mullen, from the South Bend area.
Bock, director of global health training at the University of Notre Dames’ Eck Institute for public health, zeroed in on the federal government shutdown last month and the threat, averted for now, of a U.S. debt default. He’s taken partial leave from his job at Notre Dame.
“We need somebody who is pragmatic, who knows how to make things work and who can effectively move our government more toward the type of stability that’s required,” said Bock, 56, who moved to the South Bend area in 2007, when he took a post at Notre Dame.
The two-week shutdown occurred after House Republicans, Walorski included, pushed to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in spending legislation, a move that generated opposition from Senate Democrats. Though the dispute has since been resolved, at least temporarily, the business sector needs stability to thrive and create jobs, Bock said, “and government is not giving them that feeling.”
He painted himself as a problem solver, ready and able to resolve crises. He worked as a firefighter coming out of high school “and in a way I’ve been fighting fires ever since.”
He took leave previously from Notre Dame to work with the American Refugee Committee, aiding Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake there. He’s also worked with Catholic Relief Services, a humanitarian arm of the Catholic church, and led efforts to aid Sierra Leone and Pakistan, among other nations.
“A lot of the work that I have done has been in responding to crises,” he said. If one place is in crisis now, he added, it’s Washington, D.C.
The Affordable Care Act has received plenty of attention of late, with many Republicans, Walorski included, pushing for its repeal or a delay in its implementation.
Bock said the health care reform needs to be fixed and amended, singling out the medical device tax for criticism. But don’t go a route that could lead to a government shutdown, as recently tried by Republicans, he said.
Amending legislation through tweaks and new legislation is “a tried and true process in our form of government,” he said. “Threatening a government shutdown ... is quite frankly inappropriate behavior.”
Though circumspect in his comments about Walorski on Monday, Bock was more blunt in a press release Sunday formally announcing his candidacy.
“If Jackie Walorski had her way, the government would still be shut down and even worse, America would have defaulted on its debt,” he said. “Congresswoman Walorski has either lost touch with northern Indiana or simply doesn’t care.
Bock is pro-life on the abortion question and served three terms in the Missouri House, representing a district in the Kansas City area in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He opted against running again in Missouri after serving three terms for family and professional reasons.
MORRISON RUNNING, TOO
Morrison, who lost to Mullen in the Democratic primary for the 2nd District post in 2012, said Monday that he’s “definitely” a Democratic candidate in 2014. More details on his candidacy will come later, though.
“I never really quit running, to be truthful,” he said, hearkening back to his 2012 effort.
Walorski, meanwhile, issued a press release Monday largely identical to a statement she put out two weeks ago when asked about the 2014 campaign.
Walorski is committed to “working across the aisle to find common sense solutions to out nation’s problems,” said the statement in part.