Rokita campaigns on anti-establishment record in Jeffersonville

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This article first appeared in News and Tribute.

JEFFERSONVILLE — U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita is posturing himself as the Senate candidate who will "defeat the elite" and support President Trump in an already heated and closely watched race.

Rokita, R-Indiana, is kicking off his campaign by visiting nine cities across the state. The 4th Congressional District representative stumped in Jeffersonville on Thursday at American Commercial Barge Line, the parent company of Jeffboat.

Rokita faces colleague U.S. Rep. Luke Messer and a host of other Republicans in the primary next year, but his speech mentioned only his political opponent in the general election, Indiana's senior Senator Joe Donnelly.

Rokita's message was one of anti-establishment governance, saying he's even willing "to take on [his] own party" if he believes he needs to.

He credits Indiana as the pioneer of voter identification laws, of which Rokita played a role. When he was Indiana Secretary of State, he was a defendant in one of the cases that prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to determine such laws are Constitutional.

Rokita characterized his support of voter identification laws, which require voters to show photo identification, as politically controversial.

"While I didn't have the support of the political elite, I had the support of everyday Hoosiers," he said. "Certainly, a lot of Republicans, but even some Democrats, too because they knew we were going to fight for the right things."

Having clocked hundreds of thousands of miles in what he called "windshield time" driving around Indiana as secretary of state, Rokita claims he understands what Hoosiers want from their representatives.

"They want less government, they want common sense, they want people to work for them and not the political elite," he said.

Donnelly's Senate seat is identified as one of the most vulnerable in next year's mid-term elections. Rokita intimated Donnelly embodies the political elitism he is trying to conquer.

"One particular kind of political elitism is one that says something in this state but when they go to Washington or wherever their office is when they get elected, they say a different thing. Another word for it is being a hypocrite ... that's what brings us to current senior Sen. Joe Donnelly," Rokita said.

"He's with us every time it doesn't matter, patting us on the back, but when it matters, when it's one of those final votes for Obamacare that drives up prices, reduces choices ... he was right there with Nancy Pelosi voting for that."

Rokita ties himself closely with Trump, who won handily in Indiana. If America is to continue Trump's agenda, it needs to ensure the president has a General Assembly to support him, the Congressman argued.

"And that's why I'm running for U.S. Senate," he said.

The candidate has won the support of at least one Southern Indiana politician — Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall, who introduced him.

"He's right on the issues," Hall said. "He knows what it takes to raise a family and what the government needs to do and what the government needs to stay out of."

If Rokita is to beat Donnelly next November, he must first come out on top in a crowded primary election.

Rokita said after the stump speech that his tactic is to remind Hoosiers of his record and listen to what they envision for the future.

"The elite doesn't listen to them. We do," he said. "And that's going to be the major difference."

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