Chesterton Tribune: Donnelly rallies with USW in Burns Harbor

“This is a really close race. It may be 1,000 votes one way or the other,” Senator Joe Donnelly said to a packed room of United Steelworkers in Burns Harbor yesterday, urging them to “knock on doors” and talk to at least 10 people before election day.

Donnelly was joined by District 1 Rep. Pete Visclosky, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, congressional candidate Mel Hall, and USW President Leo Gerard, who all echoed his statements on the importance of the midterm elections this year for labor rights.

“This isn’t about us. I’m in the autumn of my years. Most of you are too. We owe it to our kids to give them the same shot at life we had,” Gerard said.

Gerard continued, saying that Republicans are “always trying to set us back” by attacking protections for workers and safety nets such as Social Security and Medicare. Gerard also said he believes Dr. Ford, and urged women to go to the polls.

Hall, addressing recent attack ads geared at Donnelly, said, “Millions of dollars from outside our state has been spent to spread lies and half-truths about Joe.” But he said the truth is that Carrier would have gone to Mexico if it wasn’t for Gerard and Donnelly, and that Donnelly has fought to keep jobs in Indiana at every turn.

Donnelly recalled his 2012 win, and called on his supporters to turn out again to keep the fight for healthcare going. “If Richard Murdoch had beaten me in 2012, healthcare would have lost,” he said, recalling the 2017 vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act where Senator John McCain cast the deciding no in a 51-49 split. “I was never supposed to win that race. They said maybe you’ll win Porter County. We won Porter County by 15,000 votes,” he said.

Donnelly held a round of applause for the Veterans in the room, then talked about his visit to the newest U.S. Navy submarine, the USS Indiana, which was made from Burns Harbor steel. He pledged that only American steel will be used in infrastructure projects under his leadership.

After the rally, Donnelly told the Chesterton Tribune he thinks the most important issue in the race for 2018 is healthcare. He repeated that the ACA passed by only one vote, and said that his opponent is currently in support of rolling back healthcare access, including eliminating HIP 2.0, the Indiana low-income healthcare program that was expanded under the ACA.

“He’s tight at the hip to Mitch McConnel,” Donnelly said of his opponent. “He’ll take your coverage away. I’ll fight for your healthcare.”

Donnelly said his priorities upon re-election would be protecting healthcare–and making it better and more affordable–protecting veterans and active duty military, and fighting the opioid crisis. He noted his recent accomplishments include securing $20 million in funding for addiction treatment in Indiana and introducing a bill obligating the Federal Drug Administration to fast-track approval for new non-addictive painkillers.

A couple of steelworkers weighed in on the rally and what they look for in a candidate.

Charva Jones, coordinator for Women of Steel District 7, said the WOS have been very active this election cycle, reaching 1,700 people by knocking on doors. Jones said she looks for labor friendly candidates who fight for the working class with legislation, not just in words. As for the attack ads about Donnelly, Jones said it’s typical politics and, “Hoosiers are smarter than they think we are.”

Amy Pritchett, a steelworker from Warsaw, said the rally was empowering, and especially so for women. Pritchett said she has been a steelworker for a year. “It’s my whole life. I’ll retire as a steelworker,” she said.

Pritchett said she looks for a candidate who supports fairness for everyone. “When we say the pledge, it’s liberty and justice for all, not just who you as a candidate choose to empower.”

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