News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Election 2012

May 3, 2012

8th Congressional District - Democrat

TERRE HAUTE — The Democratic Party leadership in Indiana’s 8th District hoped to avoid a costly primary fight this year by naming Dave Crooks as their 2012 candidate. However, that didn’t stop two other Democrats from entering the race, one from as far away as Brooklyn, NY.

Last December, Crooks, a six-term member of the Indiana General Assembly, was selected from among three declared candidates by more than three dozen 8th District Democratic Party leaders in a closed-door meeting in Vincennes. The goal was to avoid a costly primary fight and allow the party to focus its resources on the November general election.

“This was an idea that came from the actual candidates, not the [Democratic] Party,” Crooks said. “We agree on almost every issue … we’re teammates in this effort.”

Crooks, who served in the Indiana House from 1996 to 2008, also notes that the caucus did not prevent other Democrats from entering the race, which is exactly what happened. Thomas Barnett, a 27-year-old organic farmer from Owen County, and William Bryk, an attorney living in Brooklyn, NY, both have gotten their names on the May 8 primary ballot.

“It struck me that, although the [Democratic] leadership chose someone, I have a lifelong antipathy to back-room political work, even when it’s harmless and supposedly for constructive purposes,” said Bryk, who ran for the U.S. Senate in Idaho in 2010 for similar reasons, despite never having visited that state.

Bryk, 57, who has had a long career as an attorney in New York City, has also not visited Indiana’s 8th District, but is permitted to appear on the ballot and would only be required to live in the state on the day of the general election, he said.

Crooks’ other Democratic opponent, Barnett, said he was also partly motivated to enter the race by the caucus in Vincennes. “I strongly felt like, when that happened, it was only a unanimous decision among those 38,” Barnett said. “That kind of lit the fire.”

Despite the opposition, Crooks, 48, remains the clear favorite in the Democratic primary. While Barnett and Bryk report raising no funds, Crooks has managed to bring his fundraising total equal to that of incumbent U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Newburgh, who is facing challenger Kristi Risk in the Republican Party primary.

“We expect to run against Bucshon in the fall,” Crooks said.

All three Democrats on the ballot are concerned about health care in America, they said. If elected, Crooks said his first goal would be to put to rest concerns among senior citizens that their Medicare benefits would be in jeopardy.

“I don’t think we should balance the federal budget on the backs of grandma and grandpa,” Crooks said. “They are the ones that need a break.”

Barnett would like to see the Constitution amended to include a guarantee of affordable health care, a good job and decent housing for all Americans. He also favors tax breaks for small businesses, improvements to highways and infrastructure, a balanced federal budget and getting away from using fossil fuels.

“Unless Congress starts acting now, my future is in jeopardy,” Barnett said.

Bryk said he is a “firm believer” in a single-payer health insurance program for all Americans. About 35 percent of healthcare spending is wasted on “auditing” expenses that would be eliminated under such a system, he said. “Medicare for all is a good shorthand for what I believe in,” he said.

Crooks said his campaigning is going very well, with a large surge in funds raised in the first quarter of this year.

“I’m tired of the constant partisanship” in Washington, Crooks said. “It seems both sides spend more time fighting than getting anything done.”

Barnett’s campaign is a “one man operation” with no spending so far, the candidate said. He is mostly going door-to-door, making his case for someone of his generation to gain a voice in Washington, he said.

“You ask people of my age, [we’re in] a depression,” Barnett said. “We’re the hardest hit … I don’t understand how current congress persons can look their grandchildren in the eye,” he said.

Bryk said his campaign consists of mainly answering inquiries from the press from his home in New York. But, he was attracted to the 8th District because it reminded him — according to Census figures he has seen — of the population of where he grew up in upstate New York. It has a mix of agricultural and industrial areas and is populated with “just good, ordinary people,” he said.

Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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