News and Tribune

Clark County

September 11, 2008

9th District congressional race heats up with talk of faulty transition

With the November elections nearing, the 9th District congressional race is heating up with the latest spat centered around the timing of a district office closure.

Rep. Baron Hill — the democratic incumbent who defeated then-incumbent Republican Mike Sodrel and Libertarian Eric Schansberg in 2006 — has claimed his transition back into Congress was anything but smooth in 2007.

Hill’s campaign stated following Sodrel’s 2006 loss, casework files were not handed over, making requests from Hoosiers for Social Security, disability benefits and aid from other federal programs hard to manage.

Hill’s campaign claims the democrat’s staff worked closely with Sodrel and his camp to “ensure a smooth transition” following Hill’s 2004 loss, adding that their phone calls were not returned in December of 2006. Additionally, Hill’s side is saying the closure of Sodrel’s district office on Dec. 15, 2006, added to the confusion, resulting in hardships for Indiana residents.

According to U.S. General Services Administration guidelines, Congress members are allowed to keep offices open until their replacement is sworn in, which was Jan. 2, 2007, for Hill. Sodrel was free to close his office whenever he chose.

“(Sodrel) did (Indiana residents) a great disservice, and although the Sodrel camp is simply trying to sweep this issue under the rug, I want to make sure the people of the 9th District know how Sodrel treated them in his final days of office,” Hill stated in a news release.

Ryan Reger, campaign manager for Friends of Mike Sodrel, said the issue is merely an attempt to take the focus off of what’s happening in Washington, D.C.

“The question has been asked and answered. Sodrel is confident that his staff followed the proper procedure in closing his congressional office,” Reger stated in a news release.

“The real question on voters’ minds is why Baron Hill chose to take a five-week vacation instead of doing something to lower gas prices.”

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