In southern Indiana an impressive young candidate of the Mitch Daniels-Paul Ryan persuasion hopes to unseat a cocky if toothless Blue Dog.
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And he is a vociferous critic of the growing resistance to the Democrats’ agenda. He described opponents of the health care legislation as “political terrorists” and referred to those unhappy with its passage as “tired old people.” And perhaps most infamously, after confiscating a journalism student’s camera at a town hall meeting last year, he angrily informed his constituents that they would “not tell me how to run my office.”
The contrast between the candidates could not be clearer. And Young, who is refreshingly humble and self-effacing, sees his candidacy as part of a much larger contest of ideas.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say this district is a central battleground in a war between two opposed camps,” the candidate asserts. “It’s a battle between the statists — Nancy Pelosi, Baron Hill — who believe the federal government should play a larger role in our lives, and those of us who still believe in self-government.”
If national numbers are any indication, Young is on the right side of this debate: A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found nearly 80 percent of Americans are uncomfortable with the expanding federal government. And a CBS News poll this summer revealed that only 13 percent of the country believes the White House and Congress’s programs have helped the economy.
Should voters send him to Congress, Young’s plans are straightforward: “The next Congress must set our nation on a sustainable fiscal path. It has to stop committing the labor of our children and grandchildren to pay for our current expenses. If we win, I’ll do my part to make that happen.”
But it will not be an easy contest. Hill’s last opponent, former Congressman Mike Sodrel, went down to defeat by 20 percentage points in 2008. And he will have every incentive to pull out the stops this year since victory in November might be the gateway to a run for Indiana’s governorship — an office Hill, ever the career politician, has expressed interest in occupying.
Though Hill held a slight lead over the lesser-known Young in a poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies in May, the same survey found that 49 percent prefer sending a new representative to Congress while only 37 percent would retain the incumbent.
Second quarter fundraising numbers ($386,000 to $296,000) show Young, on the basis of individual donations, outpacing Hill, whose earnings have chiefly come from political action committees. The Democrat, however, retains a sizable cash on hand advantage.
But the national mood, sluggish economic recovery, and growing unease with the increasing reach of Washington’s tentacles may provide the perfect opportunity for Young.
These factors have imbued his candidacy with a sense of urgency. “We are running out of time to deal with our looming budget crisis, and to reverse course and begin rolling back the size and scope of our federal government,” he worries.
Hill is unperturbed. In fact, he recently revealed that he “sleeps very well” because of his votes in Congress.
But this fall, when voters have heard from his opponent and have their say, his nights might become less restful.
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