Two more Democrats — one a perennial candidate from Indianapolis, the other a first-time hopeful from around South Bend — will vie for the 2nd District U.S. House seat.
Bob Kern, who's run several times, unsuccessfully, for an Indianapolis-based House seat, and Douglas Carpenter, trying for public office for the first time, join two other Democrats in the race, Joe Bock and Dan Morrison. The two new entries in the contest filed their candidacies last week. Jackie Walorski, the one-term incumbent, is the only Republican.
"I'm a true-blooded Democrat but I'm not for the party," said Kern, a convicted felon who most recently vied for the District 7 House seat in 2012, losing to incumbent Andre Carson in the Democratic primary. "I'm for the people who vote for the party. I'm not for the officials in the party."
Kern, speaking by phone, said it's permissible to run for a House seat even if you don't live within the boundaries of the particular district, but that he plans to move to the 2nd District from his current home in Indianapolis. He was vague about where he would live, but emphasized it wouldn't be Granger, a well-to-do community northeast of South Bend.
"I am not a millionaire," said Kern.
Carpenter, who cares for his elderly mother, said he decided to run because no one else of his particular political stripe entered and "I felt compelled to be a liberal in the race." He's pro-choice and pro-Second Amendment, thinks same-sex marriage should be allowed and favors immigration reform with some sort of pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
"I'd like to run alongside the president," said Carpenter. "Someone needs to run alongside him."
'AN UNLIKELY CANDIDATE'
In the 2012 vote, Kern pulled just 5.3 percent of the vote in losing to Carson in the Democratic primary. He also ran for the House from the Indianapolis area in 2010, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1998 and 1996, sometimes under the name Bob Hidalgo, losing each time.
In 1998, though, he notes he won the Democratic primary and faced off against Republican Dan Burton, eventually losing. The New York Times took note of Kern's performance that year in an article headlined, "An unlikely candidate rattles the establishment," as did Businessweek.
Kern, "also known as Bobby Scott Hidalgo, was convicted in 1994 of theft, forgery, and resisting arrest. He defeated the party's two favored candidates, including a biochemist at Eli Lilly," Businessweek said. According to the Indianapolis Star, Kern was sentenced to two years in prison in early 2007 for forgery after trying to cash a fake check for $799.56.
Kern, 49, who said he's a paralegal, acknowledges his past brushes with the law and part of his political agenda is reform allowing restoration of felons' rights. More to the point, though, Kern said his aim would be to make sure all 2nd District residents were represented. He can identify with the struggles of everyday citizens.
"I'm running because I know that the people in the district want common-sense government. They want no-nonsense government," said Kern. He put a particular emphasis on aiding the elderly and disabled.
'IDENTIFY WITH THE POOR'
Carpenter, 52, is currently unemployed and focuses on caring for his mother. He attended medical school in the Caribbean and completed part of his residency in the mid- to late-1990s but never received a medical license. Since his residency, he's held a range of jobs — managing a plasma center, working at Hummer manufacturer AM General and working at restaurants like Hacienda and Taco Bell, among other things.
Carpenter emphasized his long-standing roots in the area. Over time he's "built up a group of friends and I haven't burned a lot of bridges, fortunately," he said. "I think that'll help."
He also noted the tentative economic growth since the recessionary years and touted himself as someone who can "really identify with the poor and poverty."
The other Democrats in the race, Bock and Morrison, announced their plans to run in late 2013. Bock, who has the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is an administrator and instructor at the University of Notre Dame.
Morrison, from Elkhart, has worked in the business sector and unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination for the 2nd District House post in 2012.
The 2nd District includes Elkhart and St. Joseph counties and all or parts of eight other north-central Indiana counties.