Chip Coldiron is the latest Democrat who will try to end the Republican Party's domination of northeast Indiana's 3rd Congressional District.
It's a tall order: Second-term Republican Rep. Jim Banks captured nearly 68% of all votes cast in the district in the 2016 and 2018 general elections. Among Hoosiers in the U.S. House, only Democratic Rep. Pete Visclosky received a larger share of ballots – 73.4% in the northwest 1st District – over those two elections.
First-time candidate Coldiron won a four-candidate Democratic primary contest in June, while Banks clobbered his GOP primary opponent.
If Banks defeats Coldiron in the Nov. 3 general election, it would be the 14th straight victory since 1994 for a Republican candidate in the 3rd District.
The district consists of Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Jay, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wells and Whitley counties and parts of Kosciusko and Blackford counties. House terms are for two years, and the job pays $174,000 a year.
The Journal Gazette recently interviewed Banks and Coldiron. Their answers have been edited for clarity and space.
Why voters should elect each candidate to Congress.
Banks: Four years into this job, I have a strong track record of advocating for the conservative principles that reflect what this district cares about, from defending life to championing our Second Amendment to supporting our veterans to advocating for a stronger military.
I've emerged as a leading conservative voice in the country and in the Congress, and next term provides an opportunity for me to step into a leadership role and do more to advocate for the principles that reflect the district. (Banks is running unopposed to chair the Republican Study Committee, a caucus consisting of 148 GOP members of the House).
Coldiron: I'm going to go out there and listen to voters. I've already committed to having a town hall once a month. There's 12 counties in our district, so I'm going to go to one county a month to have a town hall. So that way I can listen to voters and find out what they really need and how I can help to make their lives better.
It doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or a Republican, or if you voted for me or you didn't vote for me, or if you contributed (money) or didn't contribute to my campaign, my job as a representative is to listen to what you have to say and then actually represent you in Washington, D.C.
The biggest differences between the candidates.
Coldiron: He doesn't really listen to our constituents. But there are also a lot of policy issues that separate me and Rep. Banks. ... Jim Banks has voted several times to take away the Affordable Care Act, and I find that unforgivable for a politician. We could be finding ways to improve our health care system and find affordable care for people, not take it away. And there's no alternative to the Affordable Care Act when he's voting against this; it's not like he's putting out a different plan to help replace the Affordable Care Act.
Rep. Banks is a climate change denier. I'm a science teacher; I can sit here and tell you how we are heating up our planet and we need to find clean-energy solutions. ... Jim Banks is not going to go that direction. (Coldiron said “there is a lot of potential” in northeast Indiana to manufacture solar panels and wind turbines.)
Jim Banks is absolutely not for the working class. I've been supported by several unions, and I'm a member of a union myself. We need to make sure our unions are protected so we have safe working conditions, we have wages that are appropriate, and we can protect the working class and make sure that they continue to make a living.
Banks: We don't know a lot about who he is or what he stands for, what he believes in, other than what we can glean from his Twitter page, which is filled with left-wing views on abortion, left-wing views on bashing the president on a daily basis. ... We can discern that he's running as a left-wing Democrat candidate based on that, but really I don't know a whole lot about him, which is troubling when you're running for Congress. You want to get out around the district and talk to voters, and that's something that we do regularly.
I'm proud of how active we are around the district as an organization on the campaign side and on the official side. And maybe that's the biggest difference: The voters know what they're getting from me. They know my track record. They know that I've been consistent in my voting record, and that's not going to change.
The single piece of legislation the candidates would most like to see passed and enacted in the next Congress.
Banks: Taking the findings of the Future of Defense Task Force report and modernizing our military so that we can compete with China for the generation to come is my top priority. That means cracking away at bureaucratic mindsets and attitudes at the Pentagon that prevent modernization. It means partnering better with Silicon Valley and new companies that are developing sophisticated military technologies. And it's recognizing that the future of warfare will look a lot more like an operating system than a chess board, and we're behind the times.
China has exceeded our capabilities in different areas, and that's becoming a leading focus of mine. It's important in northeast Indiana because of the great companies that we have here that employ thousands of Hoosiers in the defense space, and those good-paying jobs are only going to grow as we modernize and develop more sophisticated platforms. ... But it's important to the security of America for the next generation.
Coldiron: Making sure that we have affordable insurance and trying to fix what has been taken away from the Affordable Care Act the last 10 years, but also put out there a public option (for Medicare). And one of the things that I'm going to do the first day I'm in Congress, I'm going to put into the hopper my 'Fix and Heal' bill. (Coldiron's proposal would let anybody enroll in Medicare, regardless of age, including people with access to employer-provided insurance and who would be charged a payroll tax.) I am dedicated to finding a solution to our health care issue; in that way, we don't have to worry about going bankrupt because of medical bills.
And especially in the middle of a pandemic, where people are losing their jobs and with that their health care insurance, we have got to find a way to make sure that people have affordable health care so we can go to the doctor and not have to worry about going bankrupt.
Congress 3rd District
Hometown: Columbia City
Occupation: Member of U.S. House since 2017; serves on House committees on armed services, veterans affairs, and education and labor
Education: Bachelor's degree, Indiana University; master's degree in business administration from Grace College
Political experience: Congress, state senator, Whitley County Council member, Whitley County Republican Party chairman
Occupation: Norwell High School science teacher
Education: Bachelor's degrees from Indiana University; master's degree in education from IU
Political experience: First-time candidate.
In northern Indiana's 2nd Congressional District, which includes parts of Kosciusko County, Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of suburban Elkhart is being challenged by Democrat Patricia Hackett of South Bend.
Walorski is a former state lawmaker who has represented the 2nd District since 2013. A member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, she has represented the district longer - four terms - than any lawmaker since Democrat Tim Roemer, who was elected to six terms in the 1990s and 2000. Hackett is an attorney and adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School. This is her second run for Congress; in 2018, she finished second out of six candidates in the Democratic primary election.
In other Indiana congressional races:
• Democrat Frank Mrvan, Republican Mark Leyva and Libertarian Michael Strauss are running for an open seat in the northwest 1st District. Leyva was the GOP nominee in 2018.
• First-term Republican Rep. Jim Baird is challenged by Democrat Joe Mackey in the western 4th District.
• Democrat Christina Hale, Republican Victoria Spartz and Libertarian Kenneth Tucker are running for an open seat in the central 5th District. National political analysts have rated the Hale-Spartz race a toss-up even through the district has long been a Republican stronghold.
• First-term Republican Rep. Greg Pence is challenged by Democrat Jeannine Lee Lake and Libertarian Tom Ferkinhoff in the east-central and southeast 6th District. Pence defeated Lake and Ferkinhoff two years ago.
• Sixth-term Democratic Rep. Andre Carson is challenged by Republican Susan Marie Smith in the 7th District in Indianapolis.
• Fifth-term Republican Rep. Larry Bucshon is challenged by Democrat E. Thomasina Marsili and Libertarian James D. Rodenberger in the southwest 8th District.
• Second-term Republican Rep. Trey Hollingsworth is challenged by Democrat Andy Ruff and Libertarian Tonya Millis in the south-central 9th District.