MARION COUNTY'S U.S. CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS: THE FIFTH AND THE SEVENTH
Editor's note: Thanks to the candidates for spending valuable time with NUVO to offer candid explanations on their positions. Condensed excerpts are listed here, mostly verbatim, though in some cases they should not be read as direct quotes. The speakers' original intent is honored at all points. Full transcripts — including positions on subjects such as foreign policy, agriculture and veterans' services — are linked to the first reference to the candidate in the excerpted questionnaire listed below. The Fifth Congressional District is currently live. The Seventh Congressional District soon will be.
NUVO: WHAT DO YOU FEEL DEFINES A GOOD CONGRESSPERSON?
André Carson Democrat, Seventh District): I think someone who sees him or herself as a representative in the true sense of the word. Someone who is truly a representative in D.C fighting on behalf of their district. Working hard to bring back resources to their district, working hard on creating jobs, working hard on making sure that schools have the resources that they need. Making critical decisions relating to tax vehicles, income generation ... to our war efforts, and, more importantly, collapsing our war efforts so we can get those monies being spent on wars back into our treasury to make critical investments in our cities.
Carlos May(Republican, Seventh District): The No. 1 item is accessibility. What do I mean by that? The definition of the job is in the title of the job. You are a representative. That means that you need to find out what is going on in your district. You need to ask the people what their issues are, what their problems are. You need to be willing to go out and explain your stances, your votes, your reasons for doing whatever it is that you're doing to those people ... because you don't represent just one party or just one specific demographic of people or one individual, you represent everyone in your district.
Susan Brooks (Republican, Fifth District): A good effective congresswoman is a person who truly tries to learn what are the most important issues in the district, [who] tries to truly listen to the constituents and then solves the problems that the constituents might have with the federal government. We talk about the issues all the time, which are very important, but one of the most important things that I think an effective member of Congress does is resolves issues constituents might have with the different federal agencies.
Chard Reid(Libertarian, Fifth District):The most important thing is that they abide by the Constitution. The past 100 years both the Republicans and Democrats alike have basically disregarded the 10th Amendment that says we have these 17 enumerated powers set forth in the constitution. Everything else should be left to the states and to the people.
Scott Reske(Democrat, Fifth District): Somebody who understands that every problem has two sides. You have to satisfy the needs of the whole and the need of the individual components in every problem. One of the reasons why our two-party system sometimes works is that one argues for the needs of the whole and one argues for the individual components, so if you understand that the other side is bringing a different perspective then you try and solve the problem that meets the needs of both sides.
NUVO: Why do you want to be in Congress?
Carson:I've been in Congress now for four-and-a-half years. It's been truly an honor, and since I've been in office, I've been able to bring back half a billion dollars back to the state and the district. In the past few months, I had President Obama sign two of my bills into law. Now that's a task that usually takes a member of Congress a decade or two to have one bill signed into law, and we were able, through a lot of hard work and network building, to get it done in four-and-a-half years.
May:I got sick and tired of what was happening at the federal level and I decided to stop whining or bitching about it, and I decided to try and do something about it.
Brooks:The national debt discussion last spring was at a feverish pitch. I had a daughter going into her senior year in college, a son going into his senior year in high school, and I began to realize what a mess my generation was leaving for the next generation, leaving to them, and learning that so many kids coming out of college were not getting jobs. At Ivy Tech, I was walking into work every day with unemployed Hoosiers. While we have all these people in higher education, I wouldn't say that the job creation rate is keeping pace with the number of people coming out who need jobs, and it is a huge problem. ...
Then when the super committee was appointed and a small group of representatives could not sit down and figure out how to come up with some solutions to our country's debt. I felt members of Congress weren't listening to the American people and maybe didn't have the skills to try to bring people together and figure out some really tough problems, and I felt that maybe I could be a different kind of representative and do that.
Reid:My goal is to honor the Constitution and the make sure that the issues that should be left to the states are left to the states. No.1 priority is to balance the budget and also making balanced budget amendments. But not only that, I want to see a balanced budget within two years.
Reske:Intellectual curiosity, believe it or not. I spent 28 years in the military, 10 on active duty flying helicopters, 18 in the reserves, and so I have a real geopolitical awareness from that. At the same time, I was a civil engineer for the last 20 years and understand things that are very community level. Congress and the state legislature are where those subjects all come together, from the private sector to national defense to industry to education. All that subject matter just comes together.
I'm frustrated, too. It's born out of frustration that we're not solving problems as a nation. We've become too polarized.
NUVO: How will you negotiate the current partisan gridlock that seems to have stymied conversation and cooperation?
Carson:I've had the opportunity to travel, even with some of my Republican colleagues, and at the end of our travels, in conversations, they'll say, "You know, Congressman, we don't disagree on much. Our methodologies are different, our approaches are different, but I think we still want the same for the American people: We want to create jobs. We want to improve our broken educational system. We want to see critical investments made in infrastructure. But our approaches our quite different." And now, I'm even finding out from some of my Republican friends, they, too, feel hindered by their party leadership because of these serious decisions and these cuts that are affecting the very constituents that they have been sworn in to represent.
May:I would work with like-minded individuals, and I don't mean party individuals, like-party, I mean like-mind. If they're willing to do what's right and not what's easy, if they put the interests of their constituents above their own personal interests or their own party interests, we can work together to get stuff done. And that is what is wrong. You know, the folks in office right now, they are very quick to point fingers at everyone except for themselves. They are very quick to say it's the other party when sometime it's themselves as well and their party as well. We have got to start making decisions based on what is best for this country, not what is best for this party, regardless of party.
Brooks:Not move away from the people that we might not see eye to eye on topics, but actually try and develop a relationship with them because I think when you get to know people and begin to work with them as I have in a lot of different jobs, you can usually find ways to work through things. I understand from talking to current members of Congress that doesn't happen right now. It is very polarized. There isn't a lot of interaction, whether it's social or outside of the halls of Congress or actually in the chambers. There isn't much interaction between the parties. It's not how it used to be in the past. I really do believe that when people get to know each other on a more personal basis, rather than just the labels that people are attaching to each other, that we should be able to work through some of these differences, I want to try to figure out on a one-to-one basis and try and figure out how we can find some like-minded agreements on some issues. Maybe not on all the big things at once É (but) small issue by small issue.
Reid:I think gridlock can be healthy, to be quite honest, because that's the whole reason we have separation of powers. You can't have the House dominated by the Republicans bully around the Democratic Senate. I think the gridlock is a healthy thing and, quite honestly, I would like to see the government do a lot less than it does.
Reske:That comes from the voters. When the voters demand that problems be solved, then that's when problems will start to be solved. You begin that by sending people to Congress who believe that, too.
NUVO: In what ways, if any, can Congress best stimulate greater economic growth and job creation?
Carson:We certainly need to make changes to our current tax code. We also need to penalize those companies who choose to ship our jobs overseas [and] come up with more ways to convince companies to keep the bulk of their operations here in the USA. Clamp down on some of these overseas tax shelters and their governments and impose some sanctions on some of the islands that have been used as tax havens to let people escape from paying their fair share of taxes.
Another way is for us to tap into the alternative energy sector. For far too long, we've had a dependence on foreign oil. If you look at a state like Indiana, and you drive up I-65 in Carroll County and White County, you'll see beautiful wind turbines as far as the eye can see. A lot of the time, these wind turbines are being built and manufactured in China. We have a skilled, capable workforce here in the great state of Indiana who can build wind turbines, solar panels and help develop the next generation of alternative-fuel vehicles where you could take a bottle of water and power a vehicle to get 60 miles to the gallon. We have to put more pressure on Congress to raise the standards so we can do those kinds of things. Those are just some of the creative things that we can do to help spur economic growth.
And the more we collapse and end the war in Afghanistan and our true presence in Afghanistan, we can get our men and women, our service members back home, and use those billions of dollars back in our U.S. Treasury so we can have a series of critical capital infusions in places like Indianapolis to spur economic growth.
May:We need to have a tax code or a tax system that encourages small and medium-sized business owners to expand and grow. Right now we do not have that. If we want to solve the tax issue and the loopholes and all that, scrap what we've got and implement a new, fair, even, common sense-based tax approach so that everyone is paying into the system.
Brooks:We need to realize we are in a global competition for jobs. I've seen that at my work at Ivy Tech. Companies, when they are making decisions where to create jobs, they're looking at the business environment, the tax environment, the workforce availability, and we need to make sure that we have a much more favorable tax environment.
Reid:The truth is that Congress can't create jobs. I get really irritated when presidents and Congress say they created jobs. Government jobs are stealing jobs from the private sector; you are allocating funds. The best way Congress can create jobs, No. 1 is pass a budget with a tax bracket that is permanent, so businesses have some degree of certainty going forward.
Reske:Half the GDP [gross domestic product] comes out of small businesses. Fourteen times the number of patents for new technologies comes out of small businesses. We need to make it easier for small businesses to get capital to get their patents processed. You got to have manufacturing back here in the United States. Until you bring it back, the middle class will continue to shrink, the buying power will continue to decline.
NUVO: What does sensible tax reform mean to you?
Carson:I think sensible tax reform means making sure that the wealthy one percent pay their fair share.
May:We need to have an approach that is much more fine-tuned for the standard person to understand. Now let me give you the example. Right now, we basically have a tax structure that taxes us based on our production. So where is the incentive as a small or medium-sized business owner to produce more, if the more you produce the more you're going to get taxed?
So I would be in favor of, lead the push or sign on, if someone else is already leading the push, to revamp it and move from a tax on production, which is, in essence what we have, to a tax on consumption.
Brooks:I think that intelligent tax reform would require us to make our tax code much simpler. We need to have a discussion about all of the different options. I believe fewer rates, fewer loopholes, fewer credits, fewer deductions. We need to simplify our tax code. I think we absolutely need to lower our corporate tax rate because we now have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. We were second to Japan, and Japan has now lowered lower than us.
We absolutely have too many regulations. É I hear it from the agricultural, life sciences, manufacturing, finance and health care community. We have so many regulations that people now have to create jobs to comply with the regulations.
Reid:I like flat tax where everyone pays the same percentage.
Reske:I think first of all it means fairness and everybody pulling their own weight. It means getting rid of self-centered loopholes. It means millionaires and billionaires are paying the same tax rate as their secretaries.
NUVO: What do you see as the most serious environmental issue facing the state? How concerned are you, if at all, with man-made climate change?
Carson:I think that certainly global warming is a serious issue and a concern of mine. I think that we need to look more clearly at ways in which we can look at the alternative-fuel sector, the alternative-energy sector, solar power, wind power, switchgrass technology, hydropower, to smart-grid technology, to not only power our homes and vehicles, but to make our world, our communities, and our state a better place to live.
Scientists are telling us that the weather we're witnessing and feeling is a result of our abuse of Mother Earth. This is all a result of our excessive greed and our inability to realize that we are all interconnected and we have a duty and a commitment to maintain Mother Earth as best as possible.
May:Water. Lack of water. Potability. The U.S. just put out a national intelligence estimate that within the next 15 years there's going to be regional conflicts based off of a lack of drinking water. Within the next 50 years, there are going to be wars, outright wars, due to a lack of drinking water.
Common sense tells you that we're affecting the environment. Common sense tells me this: If I were to go into the garage with the garage door closed, turn on the car and all the emissions coming out of the car, I'd start to choke. É
We are pumping out millions and millions of pounds of particulate matter, of emissions from our vehicles. The degree to which we affect [the climate], I don't know because I'm not a scientist. But I would rely upon the scientists' evaluations to say "Hey, this is something going on, we need to pay attention to it." We need to, right now, start investing in next generation technologies, not just to what the next generation is going to be, but next-generation technologies in terms of what we already use currently. We can be more efficient if we wanted to be. But we got all these vested interests that throw billions of dollars at government and at politicians saying, "Don't do that, don't do that."
Brooks:The drought that we experienced this summer is very serious issue. We, as Hoosiers, often don't think about conservation the way we should think about conservation. É I am always very pleased to see programs that focus on conservation of all types as well as recycling and sustainability. Having grown up on a lake in northern Indiana, I want to make sure that our water quality is outstanding and I know that we have had water quality issues around the state, so I certainly think that that's something we need to make sure we are protecting. I think we're probably now more concerned about greenhouse gases, about issues with respect to droughts, about issues with respect to heat because it's front and center right now.
Reid:I don't have a great answer for you on that, I really don't. I don't question whether or not we hurt the ozone and stuff like that, but I haven't seen any evidence of climate change yet that I have really bought into. I believe in climate change, not global warming, does that make sense?
Reske:I think the biggest threat to environmental conditions is going backwards. You actually should always be striving to move forward with cleaning your environment and using technology in a way that enables you to do that but yet doesn't impede economic growth.
I think [climate change] is real, absolutely real. Even if it wasn't, why not continue to try to do those things to reduce our carbon footprint. What do you got to lose? If climate change is really happening and those people continue to advocate for ignoring it, it's a disastrous result on the end. But on the other end, people who advocate that it's true, so what if they're wrong? What do we got to lose? In the end we end up with a cleaner environment, so what?
NUVO: How do you think federal educational policy has influenced the state's educational landscape? In what areas, if any, would you like to see that change?
Carson:I think that Race to the Top (a federal program that offered grants to states to reform their education systems) had good intentions, but it was pretty controversial. I know the state of Indiana did not get its fair share. I think more importantly, we need to see absolute reformation of our education system nationwide. We need a space where teachers are given the freedom to teach to meet the different learning styles of children. Most of us are visual learners. Some of us are kinesthetic, we like to feel, touch, and build things. Some of us are auditory learners. Many of us are a combination of all three, but teachers need the ability, without having to worry about strict testing requirements, to really focus on nurturing these young, great, brilliant minds and future leaders.
May:It's influenced me in every single way. That's a problem of again, FDR and the New Deal. We started this over-expansion and over-reach of the federal government. We lost sight of what made our country great. And that is our Constitution. Nowhere in the constitution does it say that the federal government is in charge of issues of education. Therefore, it must be driven by the state.
If we want the federal government involved in education, which I personally do not, but if we wanted it as a people and as a district that I would represent, I would go with the will of the district, not my own. But I would look at it like this. Let's let the federal government set just the standard by which we will educate. And then let the states implement the specifics of that education.
Brooks:I do believe that the federal government's role is to make sure the states and local entities understand we're in a global competition for jobs. I
am much more in favor of education ... to be much more state and locally controlled. The federal government's role in education should also be probably more focused on research and development; we should be a country that is continuing to innovate and create and federal government should be rewarding that innovation and creation whether it's in healthcare or in manufacturing or in agriculture. Not everyone in this country is going to have master's degrees É but we have to continue to emphasize to young people the importance of their high school diploma and of GEDs. We have far too high of a dropout rate in this country and in our state. It's a very serious problem when we're competing with countries like India and China that are putting such huge emphasis on education. We're going to lose that competition for jobs if we don't have a very educated work force. When I say educated, it's all levels and types of education, including professional certifications and the various types of college degrees.
Reid:I would like to abolish the federal department of education. I think that it has far too much influence over local school decisions. My theory of education is that local school boards should be making the most decisions at a school. And if there is going to be an oversight comity of sorts, it should be the state department of education; it should not be the federal level.
Reske:I don't think federal policy has had much effect on Indiana. I think this hybrid, private/public education system that we set up in the last two years is going to be the demise of a strong public education system in Indiana, that's for sure.
NUVO: How do you define a Hoosier?
Carson:I read years ago that during wartime, someone's ear was cut off in battle and someone bent down and said, "Who's ear?" and that evolved into "Hoosier." Hoosiers are why I choose to call Indiana home. It's the energy of the people, it's the intelligence of the people, it's the passion of the people, it's the sincerity of its residents. And I'm talking from Vanderburgh County to Marion County to Palaski County, and all the way to Lake County. The spirit, the energy, and the positivity that you get from those folks who live in the great state of Indiana can't be replaced. Indiana is America's best-kept secret and I'm proud to call myself a Hoosier.
May:Someone with common sense, goodness in their heart, open ability to listen. We are the crossroads of America. We are a melting pot of all of America right here in Indianapolis, so the Hoosier heartland is one of good people, with good integrity, with good character, and with good desire to help folks out.
Brooks:I think Hoosiers are people who care about each other and to step up and help each other. We are the epitome of volunteerism, I think, in the country. I believe Hoosiers are very practical and are very common-sense oriented. I believe most Hoosiers, but I am worried about this, are very hard working and are industrious, ethical people.[NUVO: What are you worried about?]Because of some of our federal policies like giving people 99 weeks of unemployment. I believe it's too much and I believe that government has gone too far with some of its policies in providing for people without requiring people, with respect to unemployment, requiring them to go back and improve their skills or get better education or requiring them to volunteer or requiring them to give back.
Reid:A Hoosier is someone who resides in Indiana, and I plan to maintain two residences, and come back often. I am not going to sell my house. I am going to maintain it. My biggest thing is I am not a politician; I don't even want to be with those guys more than six to10 years. I mean I can't stand the idea of working with these dirt bags (you can put that in there I think it will crack some people up). I want to be with kids, I love teaching.
Reske:As a guy who's been in the military and intermingled with people from the other 49 states and territories, I think what people think of Hoosiers is that they're pretty fair, pretty honest and hard working. I think that's our reputation, too, I really do. Having worked in the Pentagon, my last two years as a reservist, Indiana's National Guard had a great reputation and that's coming from a Marine. So I was pretty proud of that.
What question do you wish I'd asked and what's your answer to it?
Brooks:I am very worried about apathy among young people in our democracy and the number of young people who are not voting, the number of young people who have no clue who their political leaders are, the number of young people, I mean high school, I mean probably, you know, 15- to 30-year-olds.
Almost all political candidates focus on senior citizens for a reason, OK? It's because they vote. Because they understand what their votes mean. Many of them fought in wars and have a deeper appreciation of what a freedom to vote means. And I am afraid that a lot of young people don't, and so phone calls and phone banks aren't focused on young people. A lot of efforts aren't focused on turning out the young people vote because they, for some time now, haven't been showing up.
Reid:What do you think of the Paul Ryan budget plan?
I think that the Paul Ryan budget plan is a slap in the face to everyone who calls themselves a fiscal conservative, and I think it should be renamed the path to global mediocrity.
Reske:I think you covered it.
NUVO: If you could ask a question of your fellow candidates, what would it be?
Carson:What do you plan to do for Hoosiers, and what do you plan to do for the middle class?
May:Why aren't you willing to do public debates?
Brooks:With Congress at an all-time low approval rating, what are they going to do to try to restore confidence in Congress? And how can they demonstrate, or what do they plan on doing to demonstrate how we can restore our faith in our government?
Reid:I would ask Mr. Reske why he doesn't have any issues listed on his website? Is he running strictly as a Democrat, with only the national party's platform? Or does he have some of his own issues? [For Brooks:] I understand that you support a budget plan that doesn't balance for 28 years, and that you support bailouts. Do you consider yourself a fiscal conservative?
Reske:[For Brooks:]More than 50 percent of Congress and more than 60 percent of the Senate are attorneys. What do you bring to the table as an attorney? [For Reid:] What role does government play in Libertarian philosophy? To allow the free market to be the free market, does government have a role in being the referee?
Do you have anything to add about issues pertaining to gay rights and how do you think gay people feel they've been treated by Hoosier politicians?
Brooks:Marriage, I believe, is a state issue. I believe that those issues are something that people need to advocate with their local city councilors and their state legislators. States in this country are so different. Federal government shouldn't try to make all of our states all the same. I believe that all people should be treated equally. I believe in the Constitution and I do not believe people should be discriminated against.
Reid:I think everyone should have equal rights, but I don't think that the federal government should be in charge of marriage of all. Many of my fellow Christians will say that marriage is between a man a woman and God and I agree with that. But notice the lack of the word government. Government should not be involved in marriage whatsoever. It is a religious covenant. I know that can seem really judgmental and hypocritical to the gay community. The other thing is, I think we need to remember the No. 1 enemy of marriage is not gay marriage, it's divorce, and unfortunately Christians have just the same percentage rate as everyone else.
Reske:Motivation means a lot to me in the debate over gay marriage in the Statehouse. I began to realize that was not a debate about a religious term. At first I thought this was a debate about that. I began to realize over time that it was a debate about hate. I think gay people should feel a lot of injustice.
NUVO: Readers, Here are a couple interesting points of similarity and contrast between Carson and May:
Both candidates support the so-called Dream Act but have different approaches to the question of legalization or decriminalization of marijuana.
In a letter to legalization advocate Bill Levin (who transparency demands we note is one of two individuals to pay for political advertising in NUVO this election), Carson stated: "Many people claim that marijuana is harmless if used responsibly, yet experts have shown it is a gateway drug, often leading its users to try other dangerous drugs. I believe that it would be a grave mistake to allow some people to use these drugs while we are trying to fight drug use across the country."
In a video of Carlos May speaking at Indiana Tea Party candidate forum, he stated: "Where is the sense in these [prohibitive, federal marijuana] policies? This is actually costing us more money, more tax dollars, more time and energy and enforcement than just taxing it and regulating it."