News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 10, 2011

Dem caucus picks Crooks as 8th District candidate

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

VINCENNES — From cities, farms and the towns in between, Democrat leaders of the “Bloody 8th” named Dave Crooks their man for 2012.

The lobby inside Vincennes University’s Indiana Center for Applied Technology building bubbled with participants in Saturday afternoon’s Democrat Party Caucus there. Thirty-eight delegates from the 19 counties contained within Indiana’s 8th Congressional District caucused beginning at noon to determine who they’ll support in the 2012 race against incumbent Rep. Larry Bucshon

(R-Evansville).

Candidates included former congressional aide Patrick Scates, Warrick County Democrat chairman Terry White and former state Rep. Dave Crooks of Washington.

Caucus proceedings were closed to the public, but by 1:53 p.m. the speeches had been heard, questions answered and votes tallied. Members of Crooks’ staff hugged in the hallway outside the meeting room, announcing they’d won.

Crooks, who turns 48 Tuesday, is a Graysville native and graduate of Sullivan High School.

According to information provided by the campaign, Crooks’ working life began at the age of 9 when he took a job at a gas station down the street from his home. Taking his first position at a radio station at the age of 17, he followed that career path through adulthood, eventually coming to own stations in both Daviess and Knox counties. Between 1996 and 2008 he served as representative for Indiana’s 63rd House District, before deciding to retire. His decision to run for the U.S. Congress was announced earlier this spring.

“I’m very humbled to be the nominee of the 8th District candidates,” he said after the caucus announced its decision.

Technically, Crooks could still face opposition within the party, he explained, adding he intends to run his campaign as if facing an opponent in May. The three Democrat candidates jointly agreed to submit themselves to the central party caucus in seeking an “endorsement,” which he received, he said. Other Democrats still have 60 days to file for participation in the 2012 election, but the party’s decision to back Crooks will stand, he said.

Anthony Long of Booneville, chairman of the 8th District Democrat committee, said the reality of modern political campaigns is that money matters. The cost of mounting a campaign in the face of large corporate interests and lobbyists is such that narrowing the field early means more money can be focused on a party victory in the fall.

How the 38 delegates voted inside the caucus will not be made public, he said, explaining that the decision to endorse Crooks represents “unanimous” backing from the party. All 38 eligible delegates participated.

“That’s 100 percent turnout,” he said proudly Saturday afternoon.

Crooks had kind words for both Scates and White, adding he’s glad party money and fundraising efforts can be focused on the opposition instead of spent by Democrats fighting Democrats.

“The message is we can win this election,” he said amid congratulations and cheers.

Decrying Bucshon as a supporter of billionaires and big oil, he said the incumbent has twice voted to “end Medicare as we know it.”

“You have people in this district with buyers’ remorse from the last election,” he said of Bucshon, who won his first term in office in 2010.

A call made to Bucshon’s office seeking comment late Saturday was not immediately returned.

Crooks said, if elected, he will work to protect Social Security and Medicare while fighting to bring jobs and economic growth to southwestern Indiana.

Jessie Davis was among the Crooks staff excitedly hugging teammates after the decision. A student at the University of Southern Indiana, she’s taken time off from school to work on the campaign full time.

“It’s pretty exciting,” she said of the impending race.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or brian.boyce@tribstar.com.