IN Focus: Sen. Donnelly kicks off re-election campaign

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ANDERSON, Ind.-- Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) officially announced his campaign for re-election Monday in Anderson.

The announcement marks the start of what will be a long and contentious race, with a number of high-profile republicans looking to unseat him.

Sen. Donnelly held a rally at the UAW Local 1963 amid a "Hoosier Highways" RV tour. After starting in Indianapolis on Sunday, the tour will come to at least 21 counties and have over 30 stops in every corner of the state. The tour features rallies, meet-and-greets, business tours, and roundtables.

During his speech, he discussed bringing ideas from Hoosiers to Washington instead of the opposite.

"What he’s heard is that many Hoosiers feel Washington is too hamstrung by partisanship and gridlock to pay attention to them," his campaign said in a release.

Donnelly, who won his first Senate term in 2012, has tried to cultivate a moderate and independent image, highlighting his work on veterans issues and against outsourcing jobs to foreign countries. He drew the ire of liberals this year by joining only two other Senate Democrats to support Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. He voted against Republican health care proposals that failed in the Senate this summer, saying they threatened health coverage for 400,000 people under the Healthy Indiana Plan backed by then-Gov. Mike Pence and funded by the Medicaid expansion included in Obama’s health care plan.

“There are plenty of champions for the far right and the far left, but not enough for people who just want results,” Donnelly said. “But that doesn’t mean, as some say, that we have to fight with even more unhinged extremism and pointed fingers. We have to fight for common sense and compromise.”

Donnelly is considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators on 2018 ballots and that’s drawn congressmen Luke Messer and Todd Rokita into a nasty feud for the Republican nomination to challenge Donnelly. Both Republicans are labeling Donnelly a “Washington liberal,” citing issues such as his votes supporting President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul.

Rep. Rokita's campaign issued this statement:

“Hoosiers beware: liberal Joe Donnelly isn’t who he says he is.  After months of attempting to fool people, liberal Joe Donnelly officially kicked off his re-election/deception effort on an RV tour trying to cast himself as a moderate and a champion of regular Hoosiers.  Of course, it’s a giant lie,” said Rokita campaign manager Bryan Reed.

“Whether it’s hypocritically railing against outsourcing while profiting from his own business’s outsourcing operation in Mexico, or claiming to be independent while bragging about Washington liberals agreeing with 9 out of 10 of his decisions, Joe Donnelly is no champion of regular Hoosiers, and he is no moderate.  Whenever it matters, Joe Donnelly is with the liberal Washington elite, not us.  The failed stimulus that created jobs in China, ObamaCare, the dangerous Iran Deal, taxpayer-funded abortion, and even gun control.  You name it.  Liberal Joe Donnelly is with them, not regular Hoosiers.”

Republican campaign officials also caused a stir Monday outside Donnelly's campaign kickoff event, sending a mariachi band to highlight a recent story involving Donnelly's family business outsourcing jobs to Mexico.

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