Monday, January 16, 2012

Your 5th Congressional District Candidates Are...

I spent my Saturday morning in Kokomo, Indiana. At the invitation of the Howard County Republican Party, several of the candidates for the 5th Congressional district met for breakfast and discussed the issues facing the country. The candidates that attended were all Republicans running in the primary. In addition to the ones outlined in my last post, attorney Jack Lugar also attended. Incumbent Congressman Dan Burton declined to attend the event.

County Chairman Craig Dunn read from a prepared statement about Burton's non-attendance, which he had several dozen copies of to give out to anyone interested. I've transcribed it exactly as written.

Howard County Republican Chairman Craig Dunn statement on non-participation of Congressman Dan Burton in the Fifth District Candidate Forum

The 2012 Congressional and Senate elections will not be about politics as usual. With a $15 trillion National Debt, high unemployment, Presidential abuse of power and lack of transparency, voter dissatisfaction with government and numerous National Security threats, any serious candidate for office must participate in a fair and open discussion of the issues. No candidate, be they an incumbent or a challenger, has the luxury or privilege of failing to address these issues before the voters in a manner that allows adequate comparative opportunities.

Each publicly announced Republican candidate for 5th District Representative was invited to participate in this forum. Congressman Dan Burton declined to participate. The Howard County Republican Party and the Republican voters of the 5th Congressional District are deeply disappointed by his failure to participate.

I think it's important to emphasize that this is above the typical inner-party turmoil and clashing of egos. This isn't something that happened behind closed doors and got leaked to the media. This is something read out loud at an event open to the general public.

Chairman Dunn also repeatedly emphasized how important it is to elect precinct committeemen rather than have them be appointed, and made it very clear (both during his opening and closing statements) that he'd like to have 100% elected precinct committeemen.

The candidates each presented an interesting alternative to Burton, though only one of them ever mentioned Burton by name. Dr. John McGoff, who previously ran against Burton in the 2008 and 2010 primary, made it very clear that the 5th district deserved better than what it has gotten over the last several years. McGoff joked that he was the only non-lawyer on the stage, and that his role as a medical doctor would be valuable in the ongoing debate on healthcare. He's also the only veteran running, having served in both Iraq and Afghanistan under the Air National Guard.

It seemed that he had been following Congress with great interest, especially with the election of over 80 freshman being introduced to Congress in 2011. He commented that many of the freshman class have "already rolled over and given up". He specifically pointed to Congressman Larry Bucshon (R-IN 8th), a fellow medical doctor. He said Buschon's expertise as a medical doctor isn't being utilized in legislative efforts related to healthcare and doesn't sit on committees that related to healthcare. If elected to Congress, he thinks he'd best fit on a healthcare related committee or the Armed Services Committee. If elected, he'd limit himself to no more than three terms, but might stop at two.

David McIntosh, a former Congressman, presented himself essentially as Not-Dan-Burton. He was quick to mention that, having been a former Congressman, he'd still have his six years of seniority if elected. The only unique issue that McIntosh talked about was the Federal Reserve, talking about how the printing of more money would lead to the rise of inflation. McIntosh says he'd take a similar three term, six year pledge that he took during his first round of service in Congress.

Susan Brooks has a long history of serving in appointed positions, including Deputy Mayor of Indianapolis under Steve Goldsmith and US Attorney General for the Southern Indiana district from 2001-2006 under President George Bush. She walked a careful line from being an establishment and outsider, talking extensively about how the tax code needs to be restructured so that the base becomes broader but taxes also become flatter.

She said she'd like to take a term limit pledge, but also recognizes that it might take a few years to learn the ropes of Congress. She mentioned that she'd like to see freshman Congressman serve in leadership positions, and that's something she'd like to do before leaving Congress.**

**Full disclosure: Susan Brooks and I go to the same parish, St. Monica Catholic Church, and my family has known her for several years.

Jack Lugar was short on specifics, but presented himself as an outsider. He was passionate in how he spoke, and seems to be aiming for the Tea Party-esque vote.

Many of the candidates tackled the issue about possibly splitting up the "Not Burton" vote. Brooks provided the best response, noting that chunks of areas where Burton got a lot of votes in the primary are no longer part of the district, and that there are several new areas to the district "that are not eager to have Dan Burton as their Congressman." A McGoff supporter told me that their campaign estimates that Burton's support tops out at about 21% and that should provide plenty of wiggle room for other candidates to have a competitive race without having to worry about Burton getting a plurality.

Talking to attendees, they were impressed with all the candidates and the message was pretty clear: Anybody But Dan.

Blogger/lawyer/teacher Abdul-Hakim Shabazz moderated the event and posted audio over at his blog, Indiana Barrister.

On a final note, McIntosh's site has the 5th district outlined on Google Maps. This should prove useful to my Indianapolis readers, especially if you live on the north side of Marion County.

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