By MATT KOESTERS
NEW ALBANY —
For Democratic U.S. Senator-Elect Joe Donnelly, this is where the race turned.
Just weeks before voters headed to the polls during a presidential-election year, Donnelly met Republican candidate Richard Mourdock and Libertarian candidate Andy Horning in a debate in which Mourdock made national headlines by saying he would deny abortions in all cases, including rape and incest, because he considered it God’s will. Mourdock’s stock plummeted to Donnelly’s benefit, who went on to win the race to replace Republican Richard Lugar in the Senate.
“It was a critical moment for the race,” Donnelly said. “I thought the entire debate was important because so many issues were discussed. But obviously, Mr. Murdouch’s comments, a lot of folks found it hard to understand how he could say those things, and had hoped upon reflection he might be more sympathetic at the time. But you know what? Mr. Mourdoch worked very hard to run a good campaign. I did as well, Mr. Horning did as well. So we move forward from there to try to bring our whole country together.”
Donnelly’s comments came Saturday during a visit to Hope Southern Indiana in New Albany, a faith-based social-services organization that runs a food pantry for the local needy. Donnelly’s focus was two-fold — first was to thank Southern Indiana for its support of his campaign, and second was to focus on Hoosiers helping Hoosiers during the holiday season.
“We have people who are in need for meals, who are in need and their children are in need, and this whole community has come together to try to make sure that everyone has a chance to have a good meal, be able to take care of their family, and it’s a real tribute to the whole region as to how we come together to help one another,” Donnelly said. “So I just wanted to come by to see the food bank to tell the people thank-you for their volunteer service, for the work they do, and to let everyone in Southern Indiana know how impressed we all are with the way the community comes together to take care of one another.”
Donnelly spent his visit talking with former New Albany Mayor Doug England, current Mayor Jeff Gahan and Hope Southern Indiana Executive Director Christine Harbeson about Hope’s operations and the needs of the New Albany community.
“I really think it’s special, because he just came off of a grueling campaign,” Gahan said. “He’s been all over this state for a couple of years, really. He really hasn’t stopped. So for him to stop here in New Albany at this facility and looking at the things that we’re doing to try to make the holidays a little more special and make sure people have good nutrition, I think it says a lot about him. I’m certainly glad he stopped by.”
Hope Southern Indiana provides emergency services to prevent eviction and disconnection of utilities for indigent Hoosiers. Donnelly said places like Hope are important, but jobs are the key to eliminating poverty.
“I’ve always said the best social program in the world is a good job for mom or dad,” Donnelly said. “And so when we have more job opportunities, more people at work, we see things like poverty drop. As our economy grows, more opportunity comes in, more families can meet all their own needs.”
To get there, Donnelly is pursuing an “all-in American energy policy.”
“We have coal here in Southern Indiana,” Donnelly said. “We should be using that. We can use ethanol, biodiesel, oil, wind, solar, and when it’s all American, it’s all more jobs.
“The other part is better education for all of our citizens. When people see the education level of Indiana increasing, the skills level of everybody here increasing, more companies are going to want to locate here as well.”