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Donnelly defends seat against Republican challenger

Sam Stryker | Friday, October 29, 2010

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment in a two-part series featuring two candidates vying to represent Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District.

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly said the economy and employment are among the most important issues in the race for the congressional seat in Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District.

The Nov. 2 election, in which Republican Jackie Walorski is challenging Donnelly, is one of several crucial races across the country that will determine the political balance in Congress.

Donnelly, who has held the congressional seat since 2006, told The Observer he is pleased with the progress of his 2010 campaign due to its focus on economic and employment issues.

“I have tried to talk about the issues in our district, the primary issue being jobs, how we create more jobs, and how we bring more jobs to our region, and how we make the American economy stronger,” he said. “The campaign has gone well because we have been able to focus on the issues that are important.”

Donnelly is a 1977 Notre Dame graduate and 1981 Notre Dame law school graduate. He said his college education gave him a strong sense of values and influenced his congressional duties.

“When you leave Notre Dame, Notre Dame gives you the values you need to try a do a good job,” he said. “You have the motto of ‘God, Country, Notre Dame.’ That is the cornerstone of what we try to do in Congress, what is best for the country.”

Donnelly said not only has the University been an important influence on his political duties, but Notre Dame represents a political partner of sorts, both now and for the future.

“I’ve been blessed with the number of Notre Dame students who work in my office. We have had a number of interns throughout the year who have worked in our office in Washington,” he said. “My wife also works at Notre Dame, so the University is a huge part of our lives and I am extraordinarily proud to be a graduate of the school.”

Donnelly said the issue of employment is critical for college students, and young college graduates in Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District are an important part of the workforce.

“We have seen the unemployment rate drop throughout our congressional district, so college students who want to stay in our area from Notre Dame and go out into the job market, more opportunities are available to them,” he said.

Donnelly, who is a member of the moderate congressional Democratic group named the Blue Dog Coalition, said his moderate political stance influences his economic decisions.

“I think our moderate policies are what is going to get us back to a balanced budget, which is critical to our college students,” he said.

On the topic of health care, Donnelly said one of the most popular aspects of the bill across party lines was the possibility for dependents to be carried on their parents’ program until age 26.

“I think it’s a big help,” he said.

Donnelly said his pro-life stance was important during the health care reform debate in Congress.

“We wanted to make sure the bill was not only pro-life in its funding sources, but it’s also pro-life in the way that it treats expecting mothers in the medical area,” he said.

Donnelly also takes a strong stance on responsible energy independence. He said the U.S. could drill offshore in an environmentally conscious manner that is both safe and responsible.

He cited the recent BP oil spill disaster as an example of a company cutting corners, something he said the U.S. government must curb.

“Part of our job in Congress and in the country is to make sure the rules are followed,” he said. “If we do this we can have a very strong energy policy and a very environmentally friendly energy policy.”

Donnelly said education would continue to be of political importance if he is reelected, as his district is influential in that level of learning.

“Our district is blessed with Notre Dame and so many other college institutions,” he said. “I’m a strong supporter of increasing Pell Grants and a strong supporter of decreasing student interest on loans. A big part of my work is making college more affordable for our families.”

Despite the country being in the midst of a troop surge in Afghanistan, Donnelly said he is looking to increased steadiness in the region. The presence of American troops in the Afghanistan could change in the coming months, he said.

“We are hopeful that this time next year there will be significant stability in Afghanistan and troops will actually be coming home,” Donnelly said.

Donnelly said the combination of his economic and foreign policies represents the correct political approach the country should be taking towards solving the issues that are being addressed in this election.

“I think that the Blue Dog message of fiscal conservatism, strong national defense and strong support for not only American families, but also American small businesses is the right message at this time,” he said.