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Candidates square off in midterm election

| Monday, November 3, 2014

Many Notre Dame students aren’t registered voters in Indiana, so their ballots won’t affect the outcome of the U.S. Congressional elections in the state’s second district. However, since Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s are located in the second district – along with Holy Cross College, Bethel College, Indiana University-South Bend and Ivy Tech Community College – the race between incumbent Republican Jackie Walorski and Democrat Joe Bock will certainly impact the region in which current and future students live.

The Observer spoke to Joe Bock on Friday about his stance on issues that are of special interest to students. Walorski’s campaign did not respond to requests for an interview over the past week.

Walorski, a South Bend native, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 and currently serves on the House Armed Services Committee, Veterans’ Affairs Committee and Budget Committee, according to her campaign website.

Bock said his disappointment with the current “dysfunctional government” is one of the main reasons he’s running.

“I just can’t believe how dysfunctional our government is,” he said. “And frankly, there are certain groups of Republicans who are so uncooperative that I think they need to be taken out, and that’s why I’m running against Jackie Walorski.”

Education in the district

Bock said the local colleges and universities are key parts of the northern Indiana economy and he would like to see them leveraged to develop the region economically.

“There’s been a lot of focus on high technology here in St. Joseph county, but there’s a lot of manufacturing here as well,” he said. “We need to make sure [these companies] are positioned to expand.

“Certainly, on the high-technology side, the universities have a huge role to play in terms of faculty members patenting their discoveries and then turning those into companies. That’s the whole idea of course, with Innovation Park and Ignition Park in downtown South Bend. We’re going to get more accustomed to seeing faculty members working with investors and creating companies.”

According to an August press release from Walorski’s office, she toured the district to “hear from education officials, community leaders and students about ways to improve opportunities that will prepare northern Indiana students for a globally competitive workforce.”

Bock and religion

Bock is a faculty member of Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health and an international humanitarian aid worker. According to his campaign website, he holds a PhD from American University and served in the Missouri legislature for six years, and he said he has worked at Notre Dame for eight years.

He is also a parishioner at St. Therese of the Little Flower Catholic Church in South Bend, and he said his faith is the source of his motivation in the election.

“I got involved in international humanitarian work because of my faith; I got involved in politics because of my faith,” Bock said.

Bock cited Catholic Social Teaching on the Dignity of the Human Person and the Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers as he described his stance on economic issues.

Economic policy

“I see a government that is going more and more in the direction of favoring large corporations that have operated on the basis of maximizing profits without much of a moral compass at all, unless the board or the CEO has a moral compass,” Bock said. “There are certainly companies out there who are that way. That’s one of the things that the Notre Dame business school tries to address – business is not just for profit.

“And I think we need a government that doesn’t just favor large companies, that also supports small businesses. We need a government that supports workers and provides an environment where people can thrive.”

Walorski’s website highlights job creation as a key issue and cites her experience in the Indiana State Legislature as proof of her commitment to it. The website also addresses her views on the national debt and her conclusion that “Washington is broken.”

“With our national debt standing at nearly $17 trillion and counting, Jackie firmly believes we must put a stop to runaway spending to protect future generations and sustain a strong economy,” the website states. “Jackie supports a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, a model that worked in the state of Indiana.”

Bock said he believes students should have options to refinance their loans much like people who buy homes have options to refinance their mortgage. He said he supports maintaining or expanding the Federal Pell Grant program as well.

“The budget that Paul Ryan put forward, the head of the budget committee in the House, actually cuts Pell Grants,” Bock said. “That’s something that Congresswoman Walorski supports. She voted for that budget, and that’s one of the areas where we differ.”

Sexual assault

Recently, colleges and universities have entered political conversations as part of ongoing national concern with prevention and response to sexual assault. Bock said he finds the prevalence of sexual assault “astonishing and shocking and despicable” and believes it is appropriate for the federal government to address since it’s a problem nation-wide.

“I believe Notre Dame and other universities and colleges are raising awareness among students,” he said. “Certainly, from the standpoint of dealing with it in the criminal justice system, there needs to be ways in which women can speak up without feeling like they are making themselves a spectacle. And I think people are trying to address that in different ways, and I think we need to be open to addressing that issue as well.”

Bock said he thinks “it’s appropriate to move forward” with the White House campaign against sexual assault, since it’s an issue “that has been neglected for far too long.”

In January 2014, a bill authored by Walorski “to provide protection for whistleblowers of military sexual assault” was signed into law by President Obama, according to her website. According to a South Bend Tribune report, the bill requires an inspector general investigation into “any retaliatory personnel actions taken against victims who reported rape, sexual assault or other sexual misconduct.”

Immigration reform

Notre Dame announced in fall 2013 that it had adjusted its admissions policies to make it possible for undocumented students to attend. Bock said he understands the frustration of colleges and universities trying to make their policies without federal reform yet.

“To me, if you have comprehensive immigration reform, you don’t necessarily need to do a special [policy] … for students,” he said. “Colleges and universities are doing that now … [because] they’re frustrated that there’s no reform yet. But I think as a government, what we need is to focus on having reform and addressing the issue, not just putting out heads in the sand and ignoring it.

“The fact that the Speaker of the House (Republican John Boehner) was unable to bring forward an immigration bill is pathetic,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m running.”

According to an Aug. 19 report in the South Bend Tribune, local immigration advocates were disappointed with Walorski’s lack of support for House Resolution 15, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act” when they met with her in August. Walorski did not take a position on the broader issue of immigration reform or the path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants during the meeting, the Tribune report stated.

“She currently is not saying anything about [immigration reform], except that she’s listening,” executive director of La Casa de Amistad Sam Centellas said in the article. “She’s being a politician; she doesn’t want to show her hand until she sees what happens.”

Bock said because illegal immigration to the United States is a civil violation, not a criminal violation, he believes an appropriate response would be a fine.

“The idea would be, rather than putting all of our resources into border guards and everything else, we ought to assess a fine on people who come in illegally and we ought to adjust it to the point where it’s a deterrent to come in,” he said. “It needs to be fair to all concerned, including people who have been trying to come in legally … but at the same time, we need to respect the rule of law.”

Bock cited Catholic Social Teaching about respecting the dignity of the person as informing his views on immigration reform.

Polls close in Indiana at 6 p.m. tonight.

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About Ann Marie Jakubowski

Senior News Writer, formerly Editor-in-Chief. English and Spanish double major, minor in journalism, ethics and democracy. Grand Rapids, Mich., native. Notre Dame Class of 2015.

Contact Ann Marie