Brett Voorhies can recite from memory the boundaries of Indiana House District 92. “It encompasses almost the entire town of Speedway, except for the shopping center, and then,” Voorhies relates his home stomping grounds, Morris Street up to High School Road and Lynhurst and then it gerrymanders around and includes The Indianapolis Motor Speedway” It’s apparent he knows the district.
“I grew up there. I’m born and raised in Speedway, Indiana, pretty much all my life.”
“I know the people I know how they think and what they want for their families, especially for their children. That’s what has forced me to run for this seat. My community was so good to me growing up and now I see some of what’s important slipping away and the current representative just isn’t getting the job done.”
That current representative is Phil Hinkle who has held the seat since 2000. Hinkle won the seat in 2008 with 55% of the vote. So why does Voorhies want in this race?
“I’ve always agreed with that phrase, ‘if you don’t vote, don’t bitch’ but I’m taking that a step further. I’m not going to bitch, I’m going to get in there and make things happen.
Brett’s thought about running for this seat before but he has been busy fighting the good fight with the United Steelworkers where he’s worked for 17 years and is presently the region’s Legislative and Political Coordinator. He’s been busy helping make Barack Obama President and fighting for legislative and congressional candidates around the Midwest. But now he has turned to a race that is personal.
“Yeah, I’ve tested it out. I’ve studied it and talked with a lot of the leaders in that community, including Republicans, Democrats and independents who have agreed that it’s time for a change there.”
He got a lot of encouragement and over and over he heard how education is a sticking point for people thinking about this race. People in the district are worried that public education is unimportant to the legislature and Mr. Hinkle.
“Last session the Democrat’s original budget would have increased education funding by 4.5% in 2010 and another 4% in 2011. Hinkle voted against that and worked against that behind the scenes. The final budget held the funding close to unchanged from 2009.
“He hasn’t really stood up for much of anything that is important to that community. It’s a very blue-collar district but time and time again he’s just votes right on the lines with Mitch Daniels. Everything the Governor wants. Whether it be labor issues, or environmental issues, whatever the case is he just votes for what the Governor wants and you just can’t do that.
I’m a Democrat, but I’m an issues person. I vote my conscience. There might be some Democrats that might not like some of my votes, but I’m going to vote my conscience because I like to sleep at night. That’s what people put you in there to do.”
“I’m not your regular state house candidate. I’ve worked in a factory. I’ve worked hard for labor issues. I know what work is and I know how working people are affected by politicians.”
He learned about work and politics from his father Bob Voorhies who served for more than twenty years as the president of the Central Indiana AFL-CIO. Bob taught Brett about the nuts and bolts of campaigns and people and why they were important.
“Dad took me to the first phone bank I ever saw when I was five years old.”
Voorhies enters into some of what will likely be his stump speech as he points out some of Hinkle’s hypocritical rhetoric. “He talks about being anti-tax and tax increase but he works for Wayne Township schools and who pays for that? The taxpayers pay for it. He’s paid to be a representative and who pays for that? The taxpayers pay for that. He talks out of both sides of his mouth.
“He’d rather throw out that anti-tax stump talk and make silly jokes about the Speaker’s hair than talk about real issues and discuss what is of value to taxpayers what they should actually see in return for the taxes they pay.”
This seat is seen as a very Republican seat, but Voorhies sees an opportunity.
“There is no good track record for Democrats in this seat. This was drawn to be a Republican seat. Hinkle’s never had too serious a challenger before.”
But Voorhies sees signs of hope in the district.
“You’ve got Obama who took 54% in the district. Linda Pence (Democrat Attorney General Candidate in ’08) took 48.9% in the district. Richard Wood (Democrat Education Superintendent Candidate in ’08) lost the district by just 600 votes. The numbers are there. It’s just going to take a lot of hard work and money and I’m going to be able to raise the money and have the friends to work it with me. It takes work, that’s why I’m already knocking on doors.”
Voorhies expects to report some pretty substantial fundraising at the beginning of the year and if the turn out for his December fundraiser was any hint of things to come, he has a lot of friends looking to back him.
“I don’t expect the Caucus or labor just to go ahead and throw resources at my campaign because they all know me. They may never get too involved just from the past performance in the district. I hope they do. So I’ve got to perform on my own. I’ve got to move this campaign along on my own before they consider helping. And that’s fine. That’s what we’re doing.”
While he understands the reality of the seat lacking a good Democrat performance record he knows it is a winnable race and is beginning to note some signs of restlessness in the other camp.
“I’ve met with several prominent Republicans in Speedway. There’s a lot of redevelopment going on there but Hinkle has not been much of a help with it. Will he likely do something for them six months before the election? Probably, but you can see some dissatisfaction in that Republican stronghold right now. Some folks are just getting fed-up with him.”
That said Voorhies goes on to discuss, Governor Daniels’ active recruitment of a core group of candidates whose fundraising the Governor intends to match four-to-one.
“The Governor’s going to work hard on these races. He wants a majority so he can act with impunity for the last two years of his tenure and it is a redistricting year. He would like to redraw the districts so it’s nearly impossible for Democrats to win a majority for the next decade.
“That’s what (Secretary-of-State) Rokita’s whole redistricting push is all about. These guys are looking to make Republicans go unchallenged in this state for years to come at the polls and in the statehouse. Then what can they do to public education? Then what sweetheart privatization contracts can they roll out?”
Voorhies is enjoying the campaign. It is obvious that there is part of him that was born to campaign.
“I’ve been doing this my whole life whether it’s been on the presidential level or the city-council level. And I was raised right by my dad. I know what it takes to be competitive and to win. And after that I know what it takes to be accountable after I get elected. It’s looking after the people’s interests. It’s not just doing your retail politics thing like Hinkle does and being a rubber stamp.”
“I look forward to this. It’s just starting to get interesting.”
Learn more about Brett Voorhies and his campaign at http://brettvoorhies.com.