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1 on 1 with Mike Sodrel after campaign announcement

by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on January 12, 2010 at 1:03 AM

There they go again.  With former Southern Indiana Congressman Mike Sodrel's decision to again seek the Republican nod for the 9th District seat, it sets up the fifth straight election pitting Sodrel vs. Democrat Baron Hill for the same seat.

Sodrel won only the 2004 contest, and sustained a 20 point drubbing in 2008.

"It was pretty bad,"  Sodrel conceded in his spartan campaign office across from Jeffersonville High School on Monday.

So what makes this time different?

"There may be a life lesson here for young people.  It doesn't matter how many times you get knocked down, as long as the number of times you get up exceeds it by one."

One difference this time around in the conservative 9th district, is that Hill -- by reputation a conservative Blue Dog Democrat -- has increasingly sided with the liberal agenda of President Barack Obama.  Sodrel has often tried to paint Hill as too liberal for 9th District constituents.

"He proved it,"  Sodrel said, "He voted for cap and trade. He voted for the health care bill. If you look at his voting record, he's very comfortable.  I think he thought I was through too."

Many political observers would have agreed with that assessment after the 2008 election.  It appeared to many that Sodrel had tired of campaigning and campaign attacks.

"There seemed to be some lackluster campaigning going on," recalled IU Southeast political scientist Dr. Joe Wert.  "I don't know what it was, whether it was resignation that 2008 was going to be a bad year for Republicans all over.  That could have very well been something like that."

Wert, however, sees 2010 differently.

"Probably it's going to be a pretty close race.  In particular, if Sodrel can come in and put in the money he needs to and drum up excitement maybe he wasn't able to do so as much in 2008.  It can be a very close race."

Wert does not think rumblings that Hill may run for governor in 2012 will affect the race, but Wert does predict a national backlash against the Democrat controlled Congress and White House.

"Lots of Democrats are going to be vulnerable this year.  And I think Hill will be particularly vulnerable with his stance on health care and cap and trade, and with his comments at the town meeting."

At a Bloomington health care town hall in late August, Hill infamously chastised a student who complained that she was not being allowed to videotape the event. 

"This is my town hall meeting and I set the rules...." Hill is heard saying on a video clip of the event.  The crowd murmers in a dissent which grows in intensity. "Let me repeat that one more time," Hill says his voice charging the microphone, "This is my town hall meeting for you.  (boos) And you're not going to tell me how to run my congressional office."

The clip has been viewed more than 175,000 times and is guaranteed to be in attack ads against Hill this fall.

"A lot of people have seen it," Sodrel smiled, "we'll make sure everybody else does."

"They'd be foolish not to use that in commercials," Wert added.

"I told people when I was there, we're doing the people's work,"  Sodrel said, "this is the people's office and we're spending the people's money.  And then I hear people say, nobody's going to tell me how to run my congressional office. I never thought it was mine to begin with."

Sodrel said the comment, however, was not the inspiration for him to take another stab at the seat.  He says no single issue or factor made up his mind, but fiscal matters dominate Sodrel's message.

"Jobs and job creation" are key, Sodrel explains, decrying the Democrats' approach to deficit spending, "smoke and mirrors health care," and tax ideas "that would penalize small business."

"In order to avoid some financial pain right now we're shoving it off on our kids.  They're the ones who are going to pay the bill. I think it's time, I think it's past time but I don't think it's too late for the country, but it's going to be too late very shortly."

Sodrel says he finalized his decision to run within the last few weeks, consulting with former House colleagues.  He says he is confident that the National Republican Congressional Committee will support his bid to unseat a Democrat.

Two other Republicans have been campaigning for months, Bloomington attorney Todd Young Welcomed Sodrel to the race today with a slam, "Mr. Sodrel, welcome to the race.  Over the last year, I have criss-crossed the 9th District talking to Hoosiers about the important issues of the day.  While you were largely silent on these issues during that time, I look forward to a robust primary where voters will choose the candidate to lead the charge for a new era of responsible leadership in Congress."

Columbus real-estate developer Travis Hankins adds, "Mike Sodrel getting in the race does not affect my campaign at all. I am focused on running my race around conservative leadership. I am running for Congress to enact term limits, outlaw abortion, and cut Federal spending across the board. I leave it to the voters to decide if there is a distinction between Mike Sodrel's campaign and mine and who they would rather have represent them in Washington."

Asked if Southern Indiana voters would prefer different choices than a fifth straight Sodrel-Hill match-up, Sodrel responded, "If you ask the passengers on the U.S. Air flight that went down in the Hudson river, whether they would like to have grey headed Sully as captain of the aircraft or whether they would like to have a fresh face to set down into the sea for the first time, I think they would probably vote for Captain Sully."

Congressman Baron Hill's campaign declined to comment on the possible rematch.

Back at IU-Southeast, Wert had advice for Republicans.

"They need to do more than just come in and say 'we're not the Democrats.'  That was enough for a lot of Democrats in 2008 that 'we're not the Republicans,' but I don't think that's going to be enough for the Republicans.  They need to come in and say. We have alternatives to what the Democrats are proposing."

The Southern Indiana alternative is a very familiar face, Mike Sodrel.

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