By Rick Howlett
On Tuesday, May 4, voters in southern Indiana will choose their major party nominees for the 9th District U.S. House seat.
The last four primaries have produced the same nominees –Democrat Baron Hill and Republican Mike Sodrel.
But another, hard charging Republican candidate is now prominently in the mix.
With the strength of incumbency and a huge campaign war chest, Congressman Baron Hill appears poised to win his primary over Dubois County Democratic Party Chairman John Bottorff and three others on the ballot who are running campaigns with little or no funding — Carol Johnson-Smith, James McClure Junior and Lendall Terry.
But on the Republican side, the picture is anything but clear. This time, Mike Sodrel (below) finds himself fending off a strong challenge from Todd Young, a 37 year old Marine veteran and deputy prosecutor in Orange County who’s seeking elected office for the first time.
“For years, we’ve been hearing politicians, really of both parties, frankly, talk about the same issues–the need to get our federal spending under control, the need to reduce our national debt, but nothing really seems to change. It seems to be getting worse. I think it’s time to match words with deeds and I think my background lends itself to this, and I see a real opportunity here for better leadership,’ Young said in an interview.
Young launched his campaign early, and has kept pace in fundraising with Sodrel, a 64 year old transporation company owner from New Albany who says it’s his solid conservative credentials and experience that again make him the GOP’s best chance to unseat Hill in the fall.
Sodrel has won one of his four matchups with Baron Hill, narrowly defeating him in 2004…he says he’s back in the primary for a fifth time because he’s concerned about the general state of the country, specifically problems like unemployment and massive debt.
“You couple that with the fact that people are actually interested in their government today,” Sodrel said in a WFPL interview. “At no time in my lifetime do I remember somebody standing on a street corner, saying I’d like for you to read the Constitution, I’d like a smaller government, I’d like to pay less in taxes. So the interest level of the electorate is higher than it has been.”
“I would actually make the argument that Todd Young is more of a threat,” says Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, a political writer and radio talk show host based in Indianpolis who’s been tracking the 9th District race.
“In an anti-incumbent, anti-establishment world, Todd Young comes across as a new person, a fresh voice, a new face, etc. Whereas Mike Sodrel – sort of been there, done that,” he said.
Sodrel dismisses the notion that he should hand the baton to a younger contender. He says his base is sticking with him.
“We haven’t lost anybody who’s a supporter of ours. In some extent, I think this is good. You’ve missed Travis Hankins, he’s another one of the opponents in the race, and I think to some extent they have drawn in young people that haven’t been here in the last couple of cycles and I think that will be helpful in November,” he said.
Jim Burden has voted for Sodrel in past primaries…he showed up at a Lincoln Day Dinner last week in Corydon to hear what Young (below) had to say.
“He seems like he’s willing to face up to some of the problems we have right now and maybe do something positive about them. I’m really concerned about the future of our country. We can’t continue at this rate
we’re going now. Government has gotten so big, it’s scary, it really is.
I feel like it’s time for a change, to use Obama’s rhetoric, he’s given us change we can choke on, though,” he said with a laugh.
Also on Republican ballot Tueday is Travis Hankins, a Columbus real estate investor…and Rick Warren of Seymour, an automotive quality engineer who lost his job in the economic downturn.