State Rep. Jackie Walorski has one week left in her campaign to unseat Democrat incumbent Joe Donnelly for U.S. Congress.
While Donnelly has led the race from the very beginning, last week the race officially became a “toss up.”
Walorski spoke with the Perspective about the campaign and some of her experiences on the campaign trail.
Kokomo Perspective: Can you give us a brief update on your campaign?
JW: We just got a notice last night that the cook report at the national level has moved our race to a toss up. That is really good news for us. It kind of solidifies what we knew, which was that Donnelly’s choice of running $1 million in negative ads were giving us a boomerang effect. He was also AWOL and not addressing the issues he voted for and addressing the voter. We go 20 hours a day, seven days a week. A normal day for us is 10 events a day. We touch a lot of people that way. It is real grassroots stuff. In addition to that, we have one of the largest grassroots organizations in the state. We have Howard County callers every night on the phone banks, and Logansport, and Rochester, and South Bend. We are making 25,000 to 30,000 phone calls a week and knocking on doors every night of the week. We are covering a massive amount of space in the grassroots division.
These races are never won on TV. If anything, we really gained from the tactic they took of being overarching negative. We have made the decision to talk about his records and make this a grassroots race. We have been able to stay competitive fundraising-wise, too, because we have outraised him in the last two cycles, substantially out-raising him in the last one.
Hoosiers are voting with their checkbooks. … We have 3,200 donors, and that is a lot for a first-time congressional candidate. I am really pleased with where we are.
We knew this race was definitely a toss up and we were smack dab in the middle of the margin where we needed to be. I don’t plan on doing anything different the next couple of days. We are just staying razor-focused on continuing our message on fighting for jobs, cutting spending at the federal level, and adding certainty to the market.
I want people to know that I want to defund that health-care bill before the taxes kick into the state of Indiana.
We are hearing really good feedback. It sounds like there is a lot of early voting going on.
KP: One of the struggles other challengers have faced in this district is gaining enough momentum to catch Donnelly. You seem to have accomplished that. Why do you think that is?
JW: We are there, absolutely. I am shocked at the national attention is has. It has not been covered much in the South Bend media market. They have kind of made the decision not to cover one of the hottest races in the country. We are dealing with press all over the world.
When I saw two weeks ago that $1.7 billion of that stimulus bill that these guys voted for really went into tax credits and cash to try to create green jobs, I could not believe that people were just going to sit by and watch this kind of stuff happen with this data-driven factual information, and he called us a liar. That was one of the key weeks that turned this race when as a four-year incumbent he resorted to name-calling. I think that is when we really saw things solidifying things for us.
KP: What do you think about your almost “rock star” status amongst your supporters?
JW: Kokomo has been a huge benefit to me. I went to the Tea Party candidate forum, and there were 350 people there. I told them I love Howard County. The reason Howard County is in this district, which I really think is ironic, is to skew it with more democratic voters. I said I am grateful that Howard County is in this district because I believe we will carry Howard County because of the strength, strategy, and the commitment of the people in Howard County. They have walked in parades. They have phone-banked with me, and we have one of the most solid groups of people in the district here in Howard County.
It has just been a phenomenal opportunity to really meet some neat people that want to have an impact on this country.
KP: What issues are really resonating with the voters you are speaking with?
JW: Jobs. Jobs. Broken promises. People promising the sky, and through no fault of their own people believed them. People believed it was worth trying all these things and it would produce jobs because they said it would. There is frustration. They feel betrayed by the stimulus vote. $1.3 trillion of their money went into a plan that created no jobs. It breaks downs to $11,000 per Hoosier family that it cost for that stimulus plan to be floated. I don’t know one person that wouldn’t have rather had that $11,000 in their pocket.
I think the massive debt is a really big deal. People realize there is $43,000 of debt on their children’s head, and their children will never get ahead.
People are really informed. They know that Joe went negative in July. They know he ran up 15 negative ads and he is running away from his record.
They are fed up with what is happening, and they feel betrayed by Donnelly.
If they are pro-life voters they feel really feel betrayed by the health-care bill. He sent stimulus money to China. He hasn’t produced jobs, and he has supported on mandate after another on employers.
KP: What do you think about all of the negative attacks in this election from your opponent, yourself, and some 527 groups?
JW: I knew this was going to be a nasty race. I knew because it is the history of the district. It is always a close district. I thought the fight for the country was worth it.
I am shocked, and I think most voters in the district are shocked, that Donnelly was the first congressman to go negative in the entire country.
I told people early on that I am going to always reserve the right to defend myself, but I am not going to go after him and get in the mud with him. I am not going to sling back and forth with him at $75,000 a week. We just stuck to his voting record and that is what we talk about in every single commercial.
He is the one who voted for the stimulus, I didn’t. He is the one who voted for the health-care bill, I didn’t. He is the one that is standing by with this country $14 trillion in debt.
The reason you see all of these 527 ads is because they are reflecting what we are hearing, which is the disappointment in voter on issues that are important to people.
I won’t be surprised how many more millions will flow in here the next 12 days since this race is at the top in the nation.