Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly is trying to maintain his Hoosier roots while he gets acclimated to life in the U.S. Capitol, and, if early indications hold, he’s doing a good job.
Donnelly was elected last fall after a series of incidents that left his opponents gasping for air. The Republican primary saw the ouster of longtime Sen. Richard Lugar by tea party favorite Richard Mourdock, who then went down in flames after some ill-advised remarks about rape and abortion.
As respected as Lugar was, Donnelly isn’t going to disappoint the legions of Hoosiers who revered the elder statesman. Lugar was a moderate Republican who was targeted by the tea party for that characteristic. Donnelly is a moderate Democrat who won’t win many friends from the Democratic left with his pragmatic approach. But centrists play well in Indiana where extremes are not welcome.
To his credit, Donnelly has made weekly trips back to Indiana to visit with constituents in formal settings and chance encounters in supermarkets. One of his primary goals is to help Hoosiers who are dealing with the federal government, be it veterans affairs, Medicare, Social Security or numerous other government programs.
It’s important for Hoosiers to know that their senators are working for them and not the special interests that swarm the halls of Congress.
In a recent interview in The Herald Bulletin, Donnelly talked about the two sides of the Affordable Care Act; the Democrats, who are determined to let it occur despite some problems, and the Republicans who want the act killed. He sees both sides as out of touch with reality.
So that’s where Donnelly will be found in his new role as senator: in the middle. He will work building bridges between the two parties, something America has seen too little of lately in the hyper-partisan climate of Washington. It remains to be seen if Donnelly can maintain his goals of service without succumbing to the siren’s call of special interests.
He told reporter Maureen Hayden that he’s uncomfortable with being quoted in the eastern media, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, knowing Hoosiers are not impressed..
He knows his constituency and aims to know them better. More importantly, he aims to serve them better. Such pragmatism and placing voters first is refreshing from a senator in Washington. If Donnelly keeps his goals and ideology intact, he’ll be a fine senator for Indiana and the nation.