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RV Ally Donnelly Distances Self from Party

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August 24, 2010 by   Leave a Comment

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., has drawn national attention in recent weeks for his efforts to distance himself from Democratic Party leaders, the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune reported.

Reporters, bloggers and commentators have picked up on Donnelly’s two televised campaign advertisements in which he says he doesn’t work for “the Washington crowd,” referring to fellow party members President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and calls cap-and-trade legislation “Nancy Pelosi’s energy tax on Hoosier families.”

The first ad prompted Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine to tell Fox News: “Democrats who kind of are afraid to be who they are, or are pushing back on their leaders, I think they’re crazy.”

But Donnelly’s campaign isn’t backing down from asserting the congressman is an independent who has opposed Democrats on issues of abortion, gun rights and immigration as well as cap-and-trade.

Donnelly played a key role in representing the recreational vehicle industry’s interests in Congress in recent years.

Republicans, meanwhile, focus on his votes in favor of a Democratic-led health care overhaul and a $787 billion economic stimulus plan Republicans say hasn’t helped the economy.

State Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Jimtown, has highlighted those votes — and the federal government’s $13 trillion debt — as she campaigns against Donnelly for Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District seat. Last week, she called them “big-ticket items that affect the entire nation.”

Walorski has also stressed that, no matter how Donnelly votes on individual bills, his votes for Pelosi to be speaker of the House show support for her agenda.

Donnelly’s campaign manager, Mike Schmuhl, said the congressman is concerned with his constituents, not Obama and Pelosi.

“Joe Donnelly doesn’t care who the speaker of the House is,” Schmuhl said. “Joe Donnelly cares about being an independent advocate for the people of Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District.”

Walorski’s campaign manager, Matt Kirby, responded in an e-mail, “It’s easy to say you don’t care who the speaker is when your political life is on the line, but where was Joe Donnelly’s opposition to Nancy Pelosi when it actually mattered? Where was his ‘independence’ when he voted for her government takeover of health care or her failed stimulus bill or her deficit spending we can’t afford? Where was it when he voted for her twice for speaker? At this point, Joe Donnelly looks desperate enough to say anything.”

According to at least one Indiana political analyst, voters also might not care much about the speaker of the House.

“Much of the leadership of the Republican Party has already realized that most people in Indiana don’t even know who Nancy Pelosi is, which is why they pulled so many of their ads like that,” Brian Vargus, a political science professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, told The Associated Press last week.

“Nancy Pelosi,” Vargus said, “is not a household name in this state.”

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