By AMANDA GRAY
THE GOSHEN NEWS
ELKHART — Cheers rose up from the crowd at the RV/MH Hall of Fame as Republican candidate Jackie Walorski took to the stage for a victory speech Tuesday night.
Numbers bounced back and forth for each candidate for Indiana’s U.S. House District 2 race, with Walorski and her Democratic opponent Brendan Mullen each taking the lead at different points in the night.
But the numbers went Walorski's way as she claimed victory at 11:41 p.m.
In Elkhart County, Walorski gathered 58 percent of the vote, just shy of 38,000 votes. For comparison, Mullen received 40 percent, and Libertarian candidate Joe Ruiz received 3 percent.
Walorski was all smiles as she gave her acceptance speech.
Walorski took time to thank her family, campaign staff, dedicated volunteers and friends gathered at the RV/MH Hall of Fame, as well as all those in the district who voted for her.
“I’m so proud to represent you and to be a Hoosier tonight,” Walorski said to the crowd.
Walorski won with 49 percent of the vote, while her Democratic opponent Brendan Mullen gathered 48 percent of the vote. Libertarian Joe Ruiz got 3 percent of the vote.
Walorski said the campaign took everyone a “long time.”
“This grassroots campaign has been as grassroots as it comes,” Walorski said, citing the phone calls, door-to-door visits and other efforts of her campaign as large factors in her win.
“We finished the line together tonight,” she continued.
Mullen conceded the race to Walorski not long before she took the stage to speak.
“I am extremely proud of the grassroots campaign that we ran and the work that supporters did on my behalf,” Mullen said in a statement. “None of this would have been possible without the unwavering support from my wife, Suzanne and our family as well as the friends and neighbors who worked tirelessly to make this campaign happen.”
Walorski thanked Mullen for a good campaign, as well as his service to the country. Mullen congratulated Walorski, as well as the District 2 community as a whole.
“This community has made me who I am. It has given me the Hoosier values by which I live my life. I congratulate Jackie Walorski on her victory tonight – the hard work for Hoosiers is just getting started,” Mullen said. “I will continue to champion common sense and our Hoosier values over partisan divides.”
Walorski campaign manager Brendon Del Toro said problems arose in several precincts in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties, resulting in delays for announcing the race.
“There were some precincts where they ran out of ballots, and they’re having to hand-count those ballots,” Del Toro said at the Hall of Fame toward 10:45 p.m.
Walorski supporters were jubilant Tuesday night. Goshen resident Dwaine Swartzentruber said the night at the Hall of Fame was “exciting,” full of new friends and new ideas.
“Everything’s exciting when it comes to politics,” Swartzentruber said. “The differing opinions and focuses, along with people’s diversity and needs — and their opinions on how to solve problems.”
Swartzentruber said he wasn’t nervous for Walorski, even though many at the RV/MH Hall of Fame seemed nervous as results came in.
“I’m confident,” he said with a smile, before the race was called. “Jackie’s going to come off winning this thing. I’m disappointed with some of the other race’s outcomes, but I think she will represent us well. You can depend on Jackie.”
Swartzentruber said he has been part of the political process, having run for Elkhart County Commissioner in the past. He said it’s interesting to be part of District 2 now, a shift after redistricting in 2010 as result of the U.S. Census. The redistricting moved Elkhart County into the district when it had previously belonged to District 3.
“I wish they would have left the district how it was,” Swartzentruber said. “I know they do it because of advantages for one candidate over another, but I think they should just let people vote. It really causes a lot of disarray and confusion. I would like to see more stability.”