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Indiana candidates prepare for election

Madeline Buckley | Friday, October 31, 2008

While the 2008 Presidential election has spurred many students to become involved in national campaigns, some Notre Dame students have turned their attention to the local elections that will also take place on Nov. 4.

Incumbent Joe Donnelly is running against challenger Luke Puckett for Representative of Indiana’s 2nd District. Both candidates told The Observer they have seen enthusiastic support from Notre Dame students.

“There have been a number of students and faculty who volunteer on a regular basis,” Donnelly said. “We are extraordinarily grateful for all the help that they have given.”

Donnelly said students have done everything from knocking on doors and calling voters in the district to computer assistance.

“It has been all-encompassing,” he said.

The excitement over the Obama campaign on campus has spilled over into the congressional campaign, Donnelly said.

“We see a large number of Notre Dame volunteers every day,” he said.

Puckett, the Republican candidate for Representative, said he has also seen support from the Notre Dame community.

“The Notre Dame College Republicans have helped out with a couple of things for us and I have spoken to a couple of classes,” Puckett said.

He said the president of the Notre Dame College Republicans, Ed Yap has played an integral role in his campaign. Yap has organized phone banks, events and would often go to parades several hours early to get things set up, Puckett said.

“He would walk the parades with me,” he said. “Ed is good at that stuff.”

Puckett said working with college students was one of the more fun parts of campaigning.

“[The students] have so much stinking energy,” he said.

Senior Cindy Brenner spent the summer working on Congressman Donnelly’s campaign for reelection.

Brenner said she initially became involved in the local Congressional election because she enjoys working on campaigns, and she thought she would have more responsibilities on a local campaign.

“I had the opportunity to work for Obama’s campaign, but as a Donnelly person you get a lot more responsibility,” she said.

Brenner said she worked on the campaign as a field director, making phone calls, collecting and entering data and attending parades and events.

“I think I was at probably about 50 parades this summer,” she said.

The College Democrats at Notre Dame have been campaigning strongly for Obama, but they have also included the election of Congressman Donnelly in some of their projects, Brenner said.

“[The College Democrats] made calls for Obama and asked about Joe too,” Brenner said.

Brenner said a Notre Dame political science class has also participated in the campaign as part of their curriculum. The class split up so half worked for a Republican campaign and half worked for a Democratic campaign, and the Democrat group worked for Donnelly, she said.

Everyone in the group was given a precinct in which they had to contact the people who lived there by phone or in person, she said.

Brenner said she was drawn to Donnelly because of his moderate approach to politics. Although he is a Democrat, Donnelly supports the Second Amendment and he is pro-life, she said.

“He is a conservative Democrat so he has the morals of a lot of the conservative areas [of Indiana],” Brenner said. “He is a moderate candidate that everyone respects.”

Congressman Donnelly said one of his main strengths as a candidate is the fact that he does not worry about party politics.

“I am an independent voice for the country,” he said.

The main focus of his campaign is standing up for the working families of Indiana by creating more jobs in the area and protecting the retirement and homes of everyone who lives here, Donnelly said.

“We need to make sure that we have a strong job base so there is solid employment for everyone in the community,” he said.

To do so, Donnelly said it is necessary to strengthen the credit markets, create a strong banking system and ensure that people are buying products made in the 2nd district.

Donnelly said his other main concern is achieving energy independence. Although he said he does not think drilling will automatically and solely solve the country’s current economic problems, he is willing to research the prospect of using American oil.

“Energy independence is critical,” Donnelly said.

Puckett’s campaign has also taken on volunteers from Notre Dame. Yap, who is a junior, began working on the campaign last April. Yap said he was a field organizer in the campaign, setting up phone banks in several counties, planning events and going door to door to talk to voters about Puckett.

“I found that to be a lot of fun,” he said. “One of the cool things I did was supervise the filming of a commercial shoot.”

Yap said he got involved in Puckett’s campaign because he disagreed with Donnelly’s voting record and several of his views.

“I looked for the alternative and found it in Luke Puckett,” he said. “When I met him, he was very convincing and I agreed with him on a majority of the issues.”

In addition to agreeing with Puckett’s campaign platform, Yap said he has thoroughly enjoyed working personally with Puckett.

“He’s the type of guy that you would love to go out and get a beer with,” Yap said.

Puckett said his campaign platform is based on energy and the economy, and he said these two issues are linked. People are worried about how they are going to afford to put gas in their car, and therefore don’t pay their mortgages, he said. Then that affects the banking system, which affects the economy, he said.

“It’s cyclical. One thing leads to another,” Puckett said.

Puckett said he believes energy independence is key in improving the economy.

“I firmly believe that if we are going to see gas prices stay down, our government has got to have the backbone to drill American oil,” Puckett said.

Economic improvement also rests on lowering the corporate tax rate, which is now up to about 39.3 percent, Puckett said.

“Individuals who have left our country to make money internationally go out there and they make money, have all this capital and don’t want to bring it into the States,” he said. “We have to have capital coming into the market.”

Puckett said being a small business owner, he does not have a political background, but rather a business one, which he believes will help him in Washington.

“I believe it’s time we take business principles and apply them to our government,” he said.

While Donnelly favors cutting taxes for 90 percent of middle class Americans and raising taxes and raising taxes for Americans in the top income bracket, Puckett said he believes this will hurt business in the area because the people that are taxed will pull back on business in the area. The decrease in spending from the people in top income bracket will decrease jobs in the area, he said.

“This isn’t about tax cuts for the middle class, this is about jobs. This is all about jobs,” he said.