Susan Heitzman for Congress: Indiana's non-traditional approach to politics
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - Democrat Susan H. Heitzman was on the hometown radio, WJCP, Wednesday morning, talking about her victory over party backed candidate Lane Siekman, to face Republican Congressman Luke Messer in the fall.
Heitzman, who turns 70 this month, operates her campaign from the kitchen table located near North Vernon in Jennings County, reminding political watchers of frontporch Randall Harmon who won a term in Congress over 50 years ago with an unconventional campaign beating party backed candidates..
"We have to make these campaigns local," said Siekman, who attended Farm Bureau meetings and education forums this spring to campaign for Congress.
Heitzman sees many issues decided by the Statehouse and not Congress, adding people want to see change from the dysfunction and polarization of politics in Washington D.C.
While the Republican House was criticizing Democratic President Barack Obama for not speaking out on an Internal Revenue Service scandal or the bombings in Benghazi, Heitzman talked about health care and education with the hopes of ending what's wrong in Washington.
And Heitzman said she planned to campaign the same as she did in 2012 when she finished second in the primary to Delaware County redevelopment director Brad Bookout. Reaching out to the people, whether it is a Methodist Church on Sunday where she once was a lay minister, or walking in one of many 5K races this summer to promote charity and other causes.
She does not intend to raise money from lobbyists like Messer has from banks, insurance, health care or other special interests. Her campaign will be driven by people and more specifically women who she encounters in partisan or other events.
"People want to see change," she said. "And I can deliver that change."
The non-traditional approach could well be washed away by more than $1 million Messer expects to raise this year. Or the fact that the 6th congressional district that votes about 60 percent Republican.
While Heitzman won most counties in the 19-county district, her margin was 49 percent of the Democratic base. And that base in small counties like Randolph County and Winchester was one vote for every ten that Messer received from his partisans.
Turnout in many eastern Indiana counties was low because of few contested races or general disenchantment in politics.
In Delaware County, the count was 9,654, a little over 10 percent of 88,807 registered to vote. And those numbers are half of how many people voted in the last midterm in 2010. And the biggest local races were for county office like assessor or recorder besides some little contested sheriff's races.
Heitzman believed women who supported her besides her unconventional campaign gained the support of people who were tired of politics in Washington.
Messer and his campaign did not immediately respond to Heitzman's victory. He was in Muncie Saturday, speaking to graduates at Ball State University.
The Republican congressman told graduates to embrace opportunity, work a plan and never quit.
That seemed to be how Heitzman believes, using faith and purpose to guide her to help people and end politics as it is known in Washington D.C.