TERRE HAUTE —
One of the most watched congressional Primary elections in Indiana and beyond will be the race between incumbent U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon and challenger Kristi Risk in the 8th District.
The Republican race will pit a pragmatic conservative, Bucshon, against a tea party conservative, Risk, in a rematch of a close Primary contest from two years ago.
Bucshon, 49, a heart surgeon first elected to Congress in 2010, is campaigning hard to win a second term. Risk, 41, placed second in an eight-way GOP primary in 2010 and is also leaving no stones unturned.
Risk, Bucshon’s sole opponent in the primary, said she decided to run again because of the way Bucshon has voted as a member of Congress.
“I think his votes are not the conservative votes that the people of the 8th District thought they were going to get in a representative,” Risk said. On the campaign trail, she often points to Bucshon’s votes to raise the debt ceiling as an example of what she calls a clear lack of commitment to cut Washington spending.
Bucshon argues those votes were the responsible thing to do.
“My Primary opponent is taking a very, very hard-line view, impractical view from my perspective, on a number of issues as it relates to the federal government,” Bucshon said. For example, Risk would have put the country at risk of defaulting on its debt and would have favored allowing the federal government to shut down rather than pass legislation to keep it operating, he said.
It appears Risk and Bucshon represent two different wings of the Republican Party. Their head-to-head race this year should give a good indication of which wing — the more pragmatic conservatives or the tea party conservatives — is the most fired up in 2012.
Perhaps to remind GOP primary voters of his conservative credentials, Bucshon is quick to refer to his votes in the past two years to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, which he and Risk both call “Obamacare.” He also calls himself a “private-sector, non-political” person, something more appealing to tea party Republicans.
Bucshon also draws on his previous work as a heart surgeon in southern Indiana when explaining why he wants to return to Congress for a second term.
“I felt strongly [in 2010] that we needed more medical professionals in the House of Representatives because health care is one of the biggest issues that we have,” Bucshon said. “I felt at that time that the country was not headed in the right direction under this administration and I still think that that’s true,” he said.
To Risk, a mother-of-four, part-time substitute teacher and avid hunter, what distinguishes her from Bucshon is a willingness to take risks and stand up to the “status quo.”
“I think Larry is a go-along, get-along type of person,” Risk said. “I don’t think he’s willing to fall out of the good grace of the [Republican] leadership up there. It’s not that I want to fall out of the good grace of the leadership, but, by golly, sometimes the leadership has to be questioned on what they are doing.”
If she wins the Primary and is elected in the November General Election, Risk said she will be a “very vocal” person for the 8th District, calling for cutting spending. “It’s going to hurt, no matter what. Either we do the hard things now, while we have the ability to control it … or we’re going to be like Greece and it’s going to be out of our hands,” she said.
If he is re-elected, Bucshon said his No. 1 goal would be to “get people back to work” through several steps, including repealing the president’s health care law, reining in federal regulations, balancing the federal budget and reforming the individual and corporate tax codes. “All of those things are affecting the ability of our country to create jobs,” he said.
Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Larry Bucshon
Education: Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign. Medical degree from the University of Illinois-Chicago.
Professional experience: President of Ohio Valley HeartCare, chief of cardiothoracic surgery and medical director of the open heart recovery intensive care unit at St. Mary’s Hospital in Evansville.
Family: Wife Kathryn, four children.
Name: Kristi Risk
Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Counseling from Cornerstone University, Lake Charles, La. Graduate of Triton Central High School in Fairland, Ind.
Professional experience: Substitute teacher for Spencer-Owen schools.
Family: Husband David, four children.