FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly was in Fort Wayne Thursday to help campaign for Thad Gerardot, the democratic candidate for District 81 State Representative. The pair talked with voters at the Dash-In Thursday afternoon.
“He’s gone to a congress that’s so partisan and he’s accomplished. He’s focusing on the issues that are most important to the most Hoosiers. That’s what I love about Senator Donnelly. That’s why I’m excited he’s here. He’s a mentor and I want to be a legislator just like him,” Gerardot said.
Donnelly said he supports Gerardot because of his mission to work for education and to work across party lines.
“It’s about what policies make sense and Thad’s not going to hesitate to tell democratic folks they’re wrong if they’re wrong, just like he’ll tell republican folks that. He’s going to fight for Fort Wayne,” Donnelly said. “I feel lucky to be here with him.”
Gerardot said he’s a democrat from a republican family.
“My whole life I grew up finding common ground. I’m more concerned about work getting done,” he said. “I know exactly what my district wants and it’s not a republican or democrat issue, it’s a Hoosier issue. They want legislators down at the statehouse who get work done and that’s what I plan to focus on.”
Incumbent republican Martin Carbaugh won the seat two years ago, beating long-time representative democrat Win Moses. Carbaugh said he’s not worried about Donnelly’s endorsement of his opponent, adding that he already works across the aisle and will continue to do so.
“My bills that have passed and have been authored had democrat co-authors. I work with democrats and have always said there’s no monopoly on good ideas. Where we can work together, I’m happy to work with my democrat friends,” Carbaugh said. “I’m excited about a second term. I’ve really enjoyed serving the people of the 81st District. I’ve been responsible with taxpayer money. I voted to give some money back to them while maintaining a surplus.”
Andy Downs with the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics said in a close race, every little thing can make a difference.
“Even though this is a conservative area of a conservative state, Donnelly won an election and he won it pretty well. I would imagine he still has pretty decent approval ratings at this time, so I would think it’s a good thing for the campaign,” Downs said.
Downs added that the 81st District has routinely been a close district. The district tended to lean democratic after the 2000 census, but democrat Win Moses almost lost in 2002. Then redistricting in 2010 made the district a little more republican friendly.
“What people don’t know yet is how republican the district is and this election will help determine what that is,” Downs said.