by Ronald Hawkins, firstname.lastname@example.org
As the first debate of her political career approached, Democratic congressional candidate Shelli Yoder was ready to talk Wednesday about the need for a voice for the middle class in Congress.
A former Miss Indiana, Yoder won the Democratic primary for the ninth district U.S. House of Representatives seat over four opponents. She is facing first term incumbent Todd Young, a Republican, in this fall’s election.
The newly aligned district will represent most of Morgan County after the election and those residents have an opportunity to vote for the district’s representative in this general election. At 7 p.m. Tuesday at Franklin College, Yoder and Young will engage in the first of two debates. The second debate will be in Corydon.
Asked if she was ready for the debate, Yoder said, “Absolutely. I was hoping for 13 debates, one in each county. They (the Young campaign) said no. Then seven was discussed. We thought anything less than seven was a disservice, but they said ‘no.’”
What distinguishes Yoder from her opponent is that she’ll be an advocate for the middle class, she said.
“I’m going to make sure the people of Ninth District know they have an advocate for them,” said Yoder, a mother of three children. “I’m going to make sure the middle class, working folks have someone fighting for them in Washington. “We have someone (Young) who is bound by special interests, by Super PAC money feeding his campaign and you have to wonder how it impacts how he votes.
“I want to make sure that my loyalties are to the people of the Ninth District. …The biggest distinction is I was raised in rural Indiana. I know how hard it is. As a working mom, I know how hard it is.”
What Yoder would bring to Congress, she said, is a professional and academic background of working together with others that involves taking very difficult circumstances and finding a way to solve problems.
“I have close to 20 years experience in non-profit, executive management and those management jobs have evolved around creating budgets that fulfill a mission and managing those budgets, meeting those budgets, serving the people I was hired to serve and doing so successfully,” she said. “My background in counseling and human services and divinity, those academic experiences are about learning how to work with diverse groups of people.
“I think that definitely is a quality that might be advantageous in Washington culture today.”
In her campaign, she has heard the voters talk about issues she’s addressed in her professional life as an associate director of director of professional development at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.
“People are wondering, ‘How do we get the job that pays a decent wage?’ If they can find a job it’s part-time work or it’s a job that doesn’t pay a wage that can support a family,” Yoder said. “They haven’t had any kind of incremental wage increase in years.
“It (earnings) hasn’t kept up with inflation and families are feeling the squeeze to get two, three, four jobs that they have to piece it together.”
Voters want to see a Congress with people from the two major parties working together for the good of the country, not their political parties, she said.
“People are very frustrated at the current Congress, at the lack of greater concern about moving the country forward and putting party loyalty second,” the Democratic candidate said. “My opponent has been a part of that Congress. I think they call it the ‘do nothing Congress.’
“My opponent has voted 95 percent of the time with the (Republican) party and it has been very obstructionist in the way we’ve been able to deal with these crises that are facing the country. People are frustrated by that severe, extreme partisanship.”
“I’m running for the people of the ninth district to make sure they have a representative who will work for them, not for special interests, not for some extreme ideology, but for the people of the ninth district,” Yoder said.
If the Republican ticket of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, and vice president Paul Ryan, a congressman, were elected, that could prove troublesome for the nation.
“I’m very concerned about the Paul Ryan budget she said. “It’s so severe and extreme. …What I have read, it’s not fiscally conservative. As a matter of fact, Forbes magazine said if Congress does nothing, we’ll get the same result as from the Paul Ryan budget.”
That proposal that includes maintaining tax breaks for the top 2 percent, increasing subsidies for the corporations and subsidies for the big oil companies, and increasing military defense spending doesn’t address the deficit that needs to be reduced, she said.
“I think we first need to concentrate on growing the economy,” Yoder said. “We grow the economy by getting money into the economy, the people who want to spend money are middle class folks who want to take care of their families.
“They right now don’t feel like a priority we’re talking about. A top down approach that says if we give money to the top 1 percent and it will trickle down through job creation — we’re just not seeing that. It isn’t happening.”
Yoder favors maintaining the middle class tax cuts, but rolling back the tax cuts for the top 2 percent of wage earners implemented during President Bush’s administration.
While Yoder wasn’t in Congress to vote on the Affordable Health Care Act, she says there are many positive aspects to it. Young, she said, has voted 33 times to repeal it.
“We’re long overdue to address health care in this country,” Yoder said. “We’re in serious need of reform. There are parts of it (the act) that are absolutely good consumer protection for the American people, making sure that our young men and women can stay on their parents’ health insurance as long as they don’t have any other until they can find that job. …Closing that doughnut hole for our seniors so they can access the prescriptions and medications they need so they aren’t going to be paralyzed because of the high cost of prescriptions.
“Making sure those with pre-existing conditions can still access health insurance and if they lose their job they can know they can access health insurance … and they won’t be left out in the cold.
“We’re the only industrialized country with such poor health options,” Yoder said. “We’re up there in bottom five in life expectancy among industrialized countries, infant mortality. But in cost we’re in the upper five. We need to address that as a country.”
On other issues, Yoder said:
— The cuts need in federal spending to balance the budget and reduce debt can’t just come from the military. “I think we do need to look at entitlement spending, we need to look at it across the entire spectrum, from individual to corporate entitlement,” she said.
She would consider a military budget from the Pentagon and if it’s a decrease in spending she would support that type of reduction.
“We forget we’ve got deficit problems by getting into two wars (during the Bush administration) that we didn’t have a way to pay for, we created a drug program that we’d didn’t have a way to pay for our seniors, and then we instituted the tax breaks for the middle income and high end wage earners that we didn’t have a way to pay for,” she said.
— The idea of a national sales tax, which Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock advocated in a debate, would penalize lower to middle income families. “The problem is you don’t have any choice about buying groceries, but you only need one yacht,” she said. “You’re going to buy a gallon of milk once or twice a week if you’re like my family.”
— Education and infrastructure are two areas the nation should invest in. “As we put money into Head Start, early childhood education, our return on investment is 7 to 1,” she said. “Engaging in learning early sets them up to succeed. …
“We have to address our deficit, but we want to be able to put our money in an area where we’re going to get a return. Our infrastructure also is an incredible return on investment. Right now, when interest rates are low, let’s find a way to rebuild our bridges in the ninth district, when one of out of four is structurally unsound. … For every $1 billion we invest in infrastructure, it creates 30,000 good-paying jobs.”
— It’s time for the United States’ military forces to leave Afghanistan.
About Shelli Yoder
Occupation: Associate director of professional development at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Formerly director of Hannah’s House, a shelter for at-risk youth, and executive director of a statewide coalition for eating disorders.
Public offices held or sought: First candidacy, winner in five candidate Democratic primary.
Education: Bachelor’s degree Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, masters degree in counseling and human services from Indiana University-South Bend and masters degree in divinity from Vanderbilt University.
Honors: Former Miss Indiana and second place in Miss America.
Family: Married, three children.
Memberships: First United Church of Christ, Bloomington
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Copyright: Reporter-Times.com/MD-Times.com 2012