The 2nd District U.S. House race features four Democratic contenders.
Just two, though, seem to be doing traditional campaigning, Joe Bock of South Bend and Dan Morrison of Elkhart. And only one has a public campaign war chest, Bock.
Still, the key is the number of votes each gets in the primary vote next Tuesday, May 6. Whoever tallies the most ballots faces off in November against Rep. Jackie Walorski, the one-term Republican incumbent, who isn't facing a challenge in the primary.
Aside from Bock and Morrison, the other two Democratic hopefuls are Bob Kern and Doug Carpenter. Kern, from Indianapolis, doesn't live in the 2nd District, while Doug Carpenter, an unemployed long-time South Bend resident, emphasizes his roots and connections in the area.
The 2nd District covers all or part of 10 north-central Indiana counties, including Elkhart and St. Joseph counties.
NEEDED: 'A PRAGMATIC PROBLEM SOLVER'
Bock, a teaching professor at the University of Notre Dame, has been focusing his campaign effort against Walorski, not the three other Democratic hopefuls.
The thrust of his message is that the district needs "a pragmatic problem solver as opposed to someone who engages in partisan bickering," he said, alluding to the Republican incumbent. He's also focused on the need to move beyond partisan gridlock.
"Right now the U.S. House of Representatives is a disaster. It's dysfunctional," said Bock, 56.
He criticized the GOP budget proposal put forth by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. — and favored by Walorski — saying it would hamper job creation in the United States and send jobs overseas. "I'm going to stand up for jobs in northern Indiana. I'm going to stand up for the middle class," he said.
Senior citizens, too, will be a focus.
On the campaign trail, Bock has expressed support for raising the minimum wage and temporarily extending federal unemployment benefits. On the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, he's expressed support for tweaking it and amending it, but not repealing it.
Bock, who moved to South Bend in 2007, served three terms in the Missouri House in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He previously worked as a consultant to the World Bank and has emphasized his efforts in crisis management. He has the backing of the State Central Committee of the Indiana Democratic Party, the 2nd District Democratic Party apparatus and the St. Joseph County Democratic Party.
MORRISON: JOB AND WAGE ISSUES FIGURE BIG
Morrison, who long worked in management and sales in the recreational vehicle industry in Elkhart County, vied for the 2nd District post in 2012, losing in the Democratic primary to Brendan Mullen, who ultimately lost to Walorski.
Job and wage issues figure big in his message. "Most people, what they worry about is their pocketbook," he said.
He said wage parity for women is a big issue. "Women deserve to have the same pay as men when they're doing the same job," said Morrison, 64.
Creating jobs is also a priority and, related to that, diversification of the local economy away from such heavy reliance on the RV sector. He'd be "more than happy" to do what he can to sell the area to would-be companies thinking of coming to the zone.
Some U.S. companies move overseas to avoid U.S. taxes, hampering job availability here, and he'd favor change to somehow tax them to spur their return.
He favors maintaining Social Security benefits for seniors and supports creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He's also backs the Affordable Care Act while noting the need to change some aspects of it, a common Democratic theme.
Political dysfunction is concerning and he said he'd invite a lawmaker out for dinner each week if elected in the name of fomenting bipartisan cooperation. "We've got the Democrats over here, the Republicans over here and nothing's getting done. Both sides need to take a half a loaf of bread," he said.
CARPENTER AND KERN
Carpenter, caretaker for his elderly mother, calls himself socially liberal and fiscally conservative.
He's pro-choice on the abortion question and favors a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He'd like to see expansion of the Medicaid system instead of Obamacare.
He gets around by public transportation and said his campaign hasn't been a door-to-door effort.
"I'm going bus to bus," said Carpenter, 52, noting the many familiar faces he encounters when traveling via the public transport system in South Bend. He can't go very far, he said, without running into someone he knows.
Despite the limited resources he's invested in the campaign, he thinks he has a shot, in part because he's connected with the unemployed and other marginalized communities. He "can really identify with those people who are struggling," he said.
Kern, 50, has run several times unsuccessfully for a U.S. House seat out of Indianapolis.
"I'm not a career politician. I'm an ordinary person who's running for Congress," said Kern, a part-time paralegal in Indianapolis. "I want to bring jobs, technological jobs, to the 2nd District."
Instead of Obamacare, he favors increased accessibility to Medicaid for those who lack health care.
"I'm everybody's candidate. I'm reachable, I'm transparent," he said. "There's no other candidate like me. You've never met anyone else like me ever."
He said his interest in running for the 2nd District posts dates to a 2008 visit to the area, when he met some "awesome people." including a local resident who didn't feel represented. He also cited a call from God to run for the post here.
Also running for the 2nd District post is Libertarian Jeff Petermann of Elkhart. He won't appear on next Tuesday's ballot, though.