INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly is positioning himself as a moderate
who will fight for “common sense and compromise” as he launches a
re-election bid in a state that President Donald Trump easily won last year.
Donnelly, who has a
kickoff event set for Monday, is considered one of the most vulnerable
Democratic senators on 2018 ballots and that’s drawn U.S. Reps. Luke Messer
and Todd Rokita into a nasty feud for the Republican nomination to challenge
Donnelly. Both Republicans are labeling Donnelly a “Washington liberal,”
citing issues such as his votes supporting President Barack Obama’s 2010
health care overhaul.
Donnelly, who won
his first Senate term in 2012, has tried to cultivate a moderate and
independent image, highlighting his work on veterans issues and against
outsourcing jobs to foreign countries. He drew the ire of liberals this year
by joining only two other Senate Democrats to support Trump’s nomination of
Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. He voted against Republican health care
proposals that failed in the Senate this summer, saying they threatened
health coverage for 400,000 people under the Healthy Indiana Plan backed by
then-Gov. Mike Pence and funded by the Medicaid expansion included in
Obama’s health care plan.
“There are plenty
of champions for the far right and the far left, but not enough for people
who just want results,” Donnelly said in remarks prepared for his Monday
kickoff event, excerpts of which his campaign provided in advance to The
Associated Press. The prepared remarks go on to say, “But that doesn’t mean,
as some say, that we have to fight with even more unhinged extremism and
pointed fingers. We have to fight for common sense and compromise.”
come as Messer and Rokita for weeks have traded insults and accusations,
with both suggesting that the other is “unhinged.” Mike Braun, a wealthy
Republican state representative from Jasper, is also running, saying the
hostility between Messer and Rokita is turning off voters and will only help
Donnelly’s re-election bid.
Donnelly has long
blasted free-trade policies for killing American jobs and accused furnace
and air conditioning giant Carrier Corp. of exploiting $3-an-hour workers
when it announced plans last year to move manufacturing jobs from Indiana to
Donnelly said last
month that he was selling his stock in his family’s arts and crafts company
after the AP reported it manufactures dye for ink pads in Mexico. In a
financial disclosure form filed in May, Donnelly reported owning as much as
$50,000 of stock in Stewart Superior Corp. and earning between $15,001 and
$50,000 in dividends on it during 2016 alone.
He said he was
selling the stock so the issue wouldn’t become “a distraction from our work
to end outsourcing and keep American jobs here instead of shipping them to
other countries.” Donnelly’s brother runs the company.
Republican Senatorial Committee has criticized Donnelly as “hypocritically
profiting” from the company’s actions.
Donnelly, 61, was
first elected to the U.S. House from the South Bend area in 2006 before
winning the 2012 Senate race with just more than 50 percent of the vote over
Republican Richard Mourdock, a tea party favorite who drew criticism for
comments about abortion and rape during the campaign.
kick-off event at a United Auto Workers hall in Anderson, Donnelly plans a
weeklong RV tour with more than 30 stops around the state.
No challengers to
Donnelly have emerged for the Democratic nomination.
The GOP race,
however, has already caused a split among the state’s Republican elite -
with Greg Pence, an older brother of the vice president, supporting Messer
as his campaign fundraising chairman and the top leaders of Trump’s 2016
Indiana campaign endorsing Rokita.