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Donnelly visits Saint Mary’s as race intensifies

Kelly Meehan | Wednesday, October 11, 2006

When double Domer Joe Donnelly spoke to a crowd of 40 in Carroll Auditorium Tuesday night, he admitted it was not his first time on Saint Mary’s campus.

“The chance to speak with you is very special,” he said. “While I was at Notre Dame I took some classes here, dined here [often] and was turned down by Saint Mary’s girls many times.”

The Democratic candidate in the race for Indiana’s Second Congressional District put joking aside, however, to address voters’ concerns about Iraq, foreign trade and the national budget.

Donnelly visited the College in an effort to increase political activism and discuss his intense congressional race against current Republican Congressman Chris Chocola. Recent polls show Donnelly ahead of Chocola by approximately 10 points, but Donnelly lost the 2004 race to Chocola 55 percent to 45 percent.

Despite the disappointing loss just two years ago, the 2006 Congressional elections have a new spin, Donnelly said.

The New York Times referred to the Second District as “ground zero” – a microcosm of all that needs to be improved in America, Donnelly said.

“This is your country,” he said. “You are going to shape and mold it through your votes. I hope to go to Congress and make this a better place for you.”

Donnelly said his race has received national attention because the party that wins is likely to control the House of Representatives, stressing that it is possible to “change the world right here in northern Indiana.”

He said the foreign relocation of jobs has hit the Indiana economy hard, taking away jobs that rightfully belong to American citizens in this area dominated by industrial manufacturing and small business.

The solution to create more jobs and boost the economy while breaking the nation’s ties to foreign oil can also be found in this region, he said.

“Two counties from here are building the largest bio-diesel plant in the world. … [It] will put money in the pockets of U.S. farmers and make the economy more secure,” he said.

As students’ concerns grow over the wartime situation in Iraq, Donnelly said the solution is to “stabilize the country.”

“[The War in Iraq] is an extraordinarily difficult situation,” he said. “It is easy to [keep fighting] when it is not your son, daughter, husband or wife over there.

“The current leadership in Washington has not carried the ball and has let [the troops] down in making them successful.”

Donnelly asked how Washington leadership could be so unprepared for the creation of success within Iraq.

Not only are America’s troops dying, but “there are a huge amount of Iraqis with no electricity, water, or refrigeration. We need to provide basic supplies to make them happy,” he said.

“If there is any reason to send in a new Congress, this is one of them,” he said.

Donnelly said he was concerned that Chocola votes in agreement with President Bush 95 percent of the time.

“[Congressmen] need to ask tough questions,” he said.

“Where are weapons of mass destruction? … Where is Al Qaeda? … If we leave tomorrow I think that Iraq will become even more chaotic and disastrous … We need to have Iraqi troops become more successful.

“[We need to ask], what is the exact plan? We cannot drift along forever,” he said.

Donnelly also said he feared the $9 trillion national deficit is running dangerously high.

“You are going to be making the decisions for your generation and the people behind you,” he said. “We are running up bills you have to pay. You have to step up and say, ‘Enough.'”

Donnelly concluded his discussion by fielding questions from the audience, who among other national interests was fixated by the campaign commercials Chocola aired against his competitor.

Chocola has run slanderous ads against him for the past five months, Donnelly said. Donnelly’s campaign, however, did not earn enough money to counter the commercials until September.

When asked why he ran a counter-attack, Donnelly said if he doesn’t, people will believe Chocola’s ads.

Donnelly finished his talk by focusing on domestic and global concerns.

“Do want to fix Darfur? … Do you want to fix Iraq? … If so, elect a new Congress to make America the shining city on the hill you heard of. How do you do this? Start right here.

“We can bring change,” he said. “Change can begin with you. You are in a magical place for this congressional election.”