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ELECTION IN FOCUS: Moderate Democrat Donnelly wins second term in a landslide

John Tierney | Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Joe Donnelly was re-elected Tuesday to a second term as congressman from Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District by winning 67 percent of the vote.

“It’s hard to put into words just how lucky and how fortunate I feel to have friends like you,” Donnelly said in his victory speech at the West Side Democratic Club in South Bend.

“We’ve worked so hard to make the country we love a much better place,” he said.

Donnelly stressed a non-partisan approach to the way he views politics.

“I want what’s best for Indiana, for working families and for our country,” he said in his speech. “That’s what we are going to do in the next two years.”

The pro-life Democrat also reached out to all the candidates on the ballot, both Democratic and Republican.

“To all candidates, on our side and on the other side, I thank you for standing up for our country,” Donnelly said.

Donnelly addressed the crowd before Barack Obama’s election was guaranteed.

“I believe Barack Obama is going to win Indiana and will be the next president of the United States,” Donnelly said.

He suggested that Obama’s election will make the United States a better place.

“We all want a better country where we stand up for our families, our jobs, and our soldiers who protect our country,” Donnelly said.

In an interview with The Observer, Donnelly said that despite the Democratic sweep of both houses of Congress and the presidency, bipartisanship will be necessary.

“We’re going to try to work together with Republicans and Democrats to get things done,” he said. “We need to balance the budget, create new jobs and make our country a better place.”

“People understand that I don’t worry about partisan politics,” Donnelly told The Observer. “I care about family, jobs, our troops … That’s what Indiana is about.”

Not all of the Democrats elected to the House and the Senate are representatives from the left-wing of the party. Donnelly, who was elected to the House in the 2006 midterm election that gave the Democrats control of Congress for the first time since 1994, is himself a more moderate member of the party, as evidenced by his pro-life views.

Donnelly said that the Democratic Party will have to reconcile the views of moderate rank-and-file members with the more liberal Congressional leadership. “This will be the Democratic party’s big test,” he said.

“There are a large number of additional pro-life Democrats” in Congress, Donnelly said. “We’re going to pursue a very moderate policy moving the country forward.”

One of the biggest single issues of the next two years will be energy. “We still have to become energy independent,” Donnelly told a group of reporters. “We can’t think that we have $2 gas and it’s back to normal. We have a long way to go.”

The creation of new jobs will be another issue that Donnelly said he will focus on. Job growth will be most significant in new industries and is closely related to energy independence, he said.

Donnelly, who lost in the 2002 2nd district election, said he is “grateful to have run with Senator Obama.”

Donnelly, a 1977 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a 1981 graduate of Notre Dame Law School, thanked his Congressional and campaign staffs and said that he is “so honored” to be given the opportunity to serve his district for another two years.