SOUTH BEND — The race to fill the open seat left behind by Rep. Joe Donnelly in Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District began to take shape Tuesday and the major party candidates wasted little time shaping their message.
Republican Jackie Walorski, who ran two years ago unsuccessfully for the seat, but nearly upset Donnelly, cruised to a primary victory with nearly 75 percent of the vote against Greg Andrews while Democrat Brendan Mullen won 54 percent of the vote in his matchup against Dan Morrison.
Both camps expressed confidence about their chances over the next six months and pledged to be focused on campaigning up until the November election.
Walorski, speaking to supporters at Republican Headquarters at the St. Joseph County Republican Headquarters in South Bend, thanked supporters for their efforts.
Walorski vowed to turn her campaign into the strongest volunteer army the state or the country has ever seen.
“We’re going to Washington not as Jackie Walorski (seat) or anybody’s seat,” Walorski told the crowd. “This seat belongs to you in the second district and I’m honored to be able to come back and hand it to you.”
Mullen, who gathered with supporters at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, said he’s eager to provide a common sense approach to problems and vowed to refrain from partisan political bickering.
Mullen said he’s looking forward to the campaign and a chance to debate Walorski.
“I would love as many debates as possible,” Mullen said.
Tuesday also marked the first opportunity for the eastern part of Elkhart County to cast votes in the newly reshaped 2nd District. Much of Elkhart County had been in the 3rd District, represented by Rep. Marlin Stutzman. Redistricting puts all of Elkhart County in the 2nd District.
Walorski said she can provide an independent voice for the district, something she claimed has been missing in recent years.
She also took a few opening shots at Mullen.
One big difference, Walorski said, is that her campaign is raising 90 percent of its campaign money from inside the district while Mullen is bringing in the same percent from the Washington “Beltway.”
Mullen said that claim was false, but declined to comment further, other than to say he’s received financial support from some troops in Afghanistan.
“I’m focused on tonight,” Mullen said. “We’re thrilled with the response. We’re providing steadiness. We’re providing common sense approach to the problems we have. “Folks across the community no longer are looking for the finger in your face or the bickering voice or the incendiary rhetoric. They’re looking for problem solvers.” Mullen also pointed out that while Walorski, a former state lawmaker, was running for office since 1996, he was serving his country overseas in the U.S. Army.
Walorski was asked how she compares himself to Mullen.
“I don’t know much about him … but I can tell you the things he’s said in public,” Walorski said. “He’s lined up right smack dab with Barack Obama.”
Mullen, in response, described himself as a moderate Democrat who “wants to move our country and our families and our communities forward.
“What we need to do,” Mullen continued, “is work effectively together.”
Walorski, who formerly lived in Jimtown and represented parts of Elkhart County as a state lawmaker, declined to talk about whether various Tea Party groups from Elkhart County provided any kind of lift Tuesday, instead saying she has seen a growing base of support from Republicans, Democrats and independents over the past six months.
“I will tell you,” she said, “there were a lot of happy e-mails from that eastern edge today.”