Hoosier delegates short on clout, high on energy
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 10:00 AM
As a result of Tuesday's election, Indiana will have little clout on Capitol Hill. The state's delegation will be the least experienced from the Hoosier state in many years.
But we agree with former congressman Lee Hamilton that our delegation will make up for a lack of experience with a high energy level.
Energy and fresh thinking is sorely needed in Washington.
Besides the loss of Republican Richard Lugar after 36 years in the Senate, last week's election results mean seven of Indiana's nine House members will be in their first or second terms when the new Congress takes office in January.
In all, Indiana will lose 78 years of congressional experience among its senators and representatives.
"So Indiana loses in the short run, probably, in terms of seniority, but it has new energy, new people, new perspectives. And the Congress needs that as well," Hamilton told The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne for a story Monday.
Indiana will have three new Republican House members.
In the Sixth District, which includes Jefferson and Switzerland counties, Luke Messer follows Republican Gov.-elect Mike Pence, who has been in Congress for 12 years. Susan Brooks will replace GOP Rep. Dan Burton, who didn't seek re-election after 30 years in Congress, and Jackie Walorski won the seat that three-term Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly gave up for his successful U.S. Senate campaign.
The only members of the Indiana delegation with significant congressional experience are Democratic Rep. Pete Visclosky, who was first elected to his northwestern Indiana district in 1984, and Republican Sen. Dan Coats, who served in the House and Senate for 18 years through 1998 and was re-elected in 2010.
Donnelly is no stranger to Washington. He served six years in the House. That should help him in his move to the Senate.
In his 30-plus years in the House, Hamilton said he saw capable people rise to prominence quickly in Congress.
"You want to get there when you're young enough to build up seniority, but you've still got to have the ability, because you're playing in a fast league," Hamilton said.
Indiana's delegation faces a steep learning curve. We hope they subscribe to the old adage that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.