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June 23rd , 2024            Len’s Political Note #652 Deborah Pickett Indiana 05

2024                                    General Election

Once in a while, you might see, on a pond or on the ocean shore, someone fishing using a magnet.  Recently, a New York City couple got their prize.  They pulled up a cashbox with money in it – a $100,000.  It looks like they are going to be able to keep the money.

After every primary, I fish around to see if I can find a prize – a candidate who, with your support and the support of others could surprise us.  Here is a keeper – a Democratic candidate who can win in Indiana 05 – a district that includes the northern suburbs of Indianapolis as well as Muncie and Kokomo.  Deborah Pickett knows what she is doing.  She is a Democrat who has spent most of her career as an international trade specialist working for the Hudson Institute – a conservative think tank situated in Indianapolis far from the right coast and the left coast.

Deborah Pickett has not found a cashbox (she will need some financial support for this new project of hers), but she has received a gift from her opponent.  Incumbent Victoria Spartz is making it as easy as possible for the right kind of Democrat to unseat her.

Born and raised in Ukraine, Victoria Spartz’s BA is from the Kyiv National Economic University.  In 2000, 22 years old and recently married to Jason Spartz of Noblesville, Indiana who she met on a train between Moscow and Kyiv, she emigrated to the United States.  Six years later, she was an American citizen with a real estate broker’s license.  Not long afterwards, she had a Master’s Degree from Indianapolis’s Indiana U/Purdue U in accounting and a license as an accountant.  She owned real estate and farm related businesses.

Seventeen years after she came to the US, she was appointed to the Indiana State Senate to fill an open position.  In 2020, she was elected to the United States Congress winning 50 – 46 against her Democratic opponent, almost exactly the same margin that Trump had in the district.

Redistricting made IN 05 more Republican.  In 2022, Spartz was reelected by a 61-39 margin.  In February, 2023, she announced she would not run for Congress in 2024.  Candidates lined up to run.  I have counted nine of them and there may be more..  Every one of them was furious in February 2024, five days before the filing deadline, when Spartz announced she would run for reelection after all.

Victoria Spartz has flip flopped on other matters.  Initially, a grim and angry enthusiast for American support for Ukraine, she called the Russian invasion “a genocide of the Ukrainian people by a crazy man.”  Twice, she travelled to Ukraine, where members of her family and her grandmother still lived.

Spartz developed her own critiques.  She criticized the effectiveness of humanitarian aid efforts.  She criticized Presidents Biden and Zelensky for “playing politics.” She made particular allegations against a Ukrainian official Andrii Yermak – claiming he was leading secret information to Russia and Belarus and mismanaging communications immediately before the war because he belonged an invasion was impossible.  The Ukrainian government responded that the allegations were baseless.  A former US ambassador to Ukraine expressed his confidence in Yermak. In 2024, faced with a tough primary and after being accused, during the Republican primary,  of making Ukraine a priority to the detriment of domestic affairs, she voted against aid to Ukraine.  That vote infuriated the Ukrainians who had seen her as part of the American salvation of their country.

There were also problems that arose in her own office. She had a terrible record of staff turnover. Staff members complained that she angered quickly, would give directions and later deny what she had said, would call them stupid for undertaking what they understood to be what she had asked them to do.

Victoria Spartz has angry people on her hands. Staff members who feel mistreated. The Republicans in the primary who feel misled, And supporters of Ukraine who feel betrayed.

Victoria Spartz won her primary, but not by much.  She got 39% of the vote.  That was good enough to win in Indiana where a plurality gets you the nomination.  She was 6 points ahead of a state senator.  No Republican to date in 2024 won his or her primary with such a low percentage of the vote.

Can Deborah Pickett capitalize on Victoria Spartz’s unpopularity?  Who is Deborah Pickett anyway?

Deborah Pickett grew up along the Hudson River in Upstate New York.  Two things stand out from when she was young.  One was her family’s preoccupation with the efforts to clean up the river. The other was her consciousness of her family’s history of military service – grandfathers, fathers, uncles, a brother-in-law, a daughter, and a son-in-law.  That list includes West Point graduates and a Medal of Honor recipient.

Deborah Pickett joined the Army reserves as a non-com, serving as a behavioral specialist in a medical unit.  Then she went to college, to Skidmore.  With her BA, she worked for Center for Integrative Development before moving to Indianapolis when she was hired by the Hudson Institute.

The Hudson Institute and the Indianapolis region became her life.  Married back in New York by a Rabbi, her new husband was a senior staff member at the Hudson Institute  Neil Pickett also grew up in a Hudson River town, before winding up in Indianapolis.

While working on international trade issues for Hudson Institute, she served on several local boards. He became Director of Program Management a Hudson, wrote a history of the organization and went on to work in state government and for state universities, ultimately creating his own consulting agency.

Deborah Pickett has not held political office, She brings a history of writing about serious political issues in her work.  Her responses to questions are so clear and lucid, I will let her speak for herself.  Initially, these were her responses to questions during the primary, which she won.

Why is she running for Congress?
I am deeply concerned by the attacks on our democracy and personal rights by those who swore an oath to protect them. Americans believe in fairness and justice. I want to make sure that these sacred principles are protected for Hoosiers and championed in Congress on their behalf

Her top three issues?

My campaign is about protecting our democracy and making sure that fairness and justice prevail; fighting for our personal rights and liberties; and working toward a federal government that delivers efficient and effective services and honors its obligations to Hoosiers and Americans with responsible financial stewardship.

Regarding border security

U.S. border policy should be compassionate to people fleeing poverty and violence but also respect U.S. national security interests and immigration laws. We need more judges and resources, and immigration reform should account for labor shortages and the contributions made by those who have lived and worked here for decades.

Support for Ukraine

Ukraine and Israel are both fighting brutal and destabilizing forces and money allocated for these commitments is small compared to the overall U.S. military budget. However, Ukraine and Israel aid should be dealt with separately and different terms offered given their objectives and military strategies and tactics.

Reducing health care costs

Congress should simplify and streamline the patchwork of healthcare programs and take steps toward universal coverage for a basic set of medical services with an option to buy supplemental coverage. Additionally, Congress should create a health care budget that caps the amount that government can spend on medical care.

Political polarization

I will listen to my fellow Hoosiers’ concerns and ideas about how to make their lives better and how government can best help them help themselves and their families. My desire is to help Hoosiers build stronger families, resilient communities and prosperous futures as their U.S. representative.

What voters should know about her

I admire my fellow Hoosiers’ independent spirit and wonderful hospitality and am grateful to dear friends who have treated us like family. We live in a great country. We all need to stand up and stand strong for our democratic republic. Do not give up your rights. Vote for democracy.

On her website, she asks herself: What drives innovation, boosts the economy, and creates job opportunities?

  • The freedom to pursue your passions and lead the life you desire.
  • The right to marry the person you love and the responsibility to have control over your reproductive health.
  • A well-functioning government bound by principles, laws and a regulatory framework that ensures fair treatment and justice for all.
  • A government dedicated to honoring its responsibilities to its citizens without gamesmanship and on time.
  • An educational system designed to teach fundamental skills and impart knowledge foundational for a life of learning and self-improvement.
  • An educational system dedicated to training and rewarding its teachers for making us all better and more productive citizens.
  • Commitments to cleaner air, water, and soil for improved health.
  • National security, stability, and global peace.
  • A shared commitment by all of us to respect and honor the system that is the source of our United States’ greatness and prosperity.
  • All of these factors allow residents of Indiana to thrive and build robust communities and a strong nation.

I admire Deborah Pickett’s lucidity, her capacity to speak and write clearly as she addresses tough issues. We know that in 2022, the Republican incumbent won by 61-39.  The only polls so far in 2024 for Indiana 05 were about the Republican primary. As of April 17, Deborah Pickett reported having $4,000.  Victoria Spartz did not report a dime. She is a great find for the Democrats.  Will the Party notice and help her? Will you?   DONATE TO DEBORAH PICKETT.  Get her out in front.

Close House races in Indiana and nearby states

Indiana and Ohio

There are a few races that could have been close, but the incumbent Democrats have built substantial financial leads.

Indiana 01 in Northeast Indiana, Incumbent Frank Mrvan had $1.2 million on April 17 to Businessman Randall Niemeyer’s $300,000.

Ohio 09  along the southwest coast of Lake Erie and extending well into rural Ohio,  Incumbent Marcy Kaptur had $1.9 million on March 31 to State Rep Derek Merrin’s $90,000.

Ohio 13 in and around Akron, Incumbent Emilia Sykes had $1.6 million to ex state senator Kevin Coughlin’s $75,000.

 Michigan – is a different story.  There are real races here.

Curtis Hertel

Michigan 07 in and around Lansing – the state capital and near University of Michigan, the incumbent, Elissa Slotkin is the Democratic candidate for the US Senate to replace the retiring Debbie Stabenow.  While the very popular Slotkin won in 2022 52 – 46, Joe Biden’s 50 – 49 victory in 2020 is more representative of how close the district is.  There are no reliable or recent polls.  A Republican funded poll in February showed Republican former state senator Thomas Barrett leading 44 – 37.  The Democratic candidate Curtis Hertel, a former state rep, state senator, and legislative liaison for Governor Whitmer has a lead in the financial race.  On March 31, he had $2.1 million to Barrett’s $1 million.  DONATE TO CURTIS HERTEL.  It could make a difference.

Kristen McDonald Rivet

Michigan 08 extends from south of Flint north past Bay City in the gap between the thumb and the fingers of the Michigan hand.  The popular retiring Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee won in 2022 53 to 43.  Joe Biden’s 50 – 48 victory is more representative of the district.  The probable Democratic nominee, state senator Kristen McDonald Rivet trailed the probable Republican former Trump staffer Paul Junge in a June Republican funded poll 42 – 39.  That is a lot of undecideds.  DONATE TO KRISTEN MCDONALD RIVET.  It could make a difference.

Carl Marlinga

Michigan 10 is north of Detroit and includes Rochester and southern Macomb.  This district is the home of Reagan Democrats.  The incumbent Republican, John James, the son of a multi-millionaire African American businessman, twice lost races for the US Senate, but carried this district by a half a point in 2022, defeating popular Democratic County judge Carl Marlinga, who will again be the Democratic nominee.  The only polls for the district indicate Carl Marlinga will be the nominee.  He will be at a substantial financial disadvantage.  Having once been tried and acquitted for campaign finance offenses, Carl Marlinga is averse to raising money and has only $200,000 to John James’ $3 million.  Nevertheless, Carl Marlinga’s situation is not hopeless.  He came very close in 2022 despite being outraised 7-1.  DONATE TO CARL MARLINGA.  Help with the resources that will allow him to remind the people of Michigan 10 how popular he is.  Democrats could flip this seat.

The Senate races in this region have a true national impact. Democrats will probably lose the Senate if one of their incumbents loses. 

Ohio’s Incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown is described by some as the most vulnerable Democratic Senator. By others as the second most vulnerable.  He has cultivated a blue collar character with his gravelly voice and demonstrated his devotion to Ohio by declining to get involved in the 2020 presidential race.  The Republican candidate for the US Senate in 2022 was elected 53 – 47.  In 2018, Sherrod Brown was elected by the same margin – 53 to 47.  Polls in May and June showed Sherrod Brown leading Colombian born Bernie Moreno, owner of multiple car dealerships, by 5 and 8 points.  Sherrod Brown is leading in the money race as well with $16 million on March 31 to Moreno’s $2.1 million.  Moreno has just completed a tough primary, has his own money to look to, plus big money Republicans who will spend on this race.  DONATE TO SHERROD BROWN.  He will need every dollar donated to him to win his election.

Michigan’s Democratic incumbent, Debbie Stabenow is retiring at the end of her term.  Former CIA agent, daughter of the family that owned Hygrade Meat, and Congresswoman, Elissa Slotkin chased all competition out of the Democratic primary.  In 2020, Gary Peters defeated John James for the US Senate 50 to 48.  In 2018 Debbie Stabenow defeated John James 52 to 46. Polls in May and June show her even or with a slight (one to three point) lead over former Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers who returned from Florida to take on the race.  Elissa Slotkin is winning the money race.  On March 31, she had $8.6 million to Rogers $1.4 million.  Rogers primary opponent who still has a chance, multi-millionaire Sandy Pensler had $2.1 millon.  DONATE TO ELISSA SLOTKIN.  Help her dominate the race.

Indiana’s Senate race does not appear to be close, but is worth mentioning.  Valerie McCray, a psychiatrist who has been working the veterans with PTSD is the Democratic nominee for this open Democratic seat.  This is an open seat because the Republican incumbent Senator, Mike Braun, is running for Governor.  The Republican nominee is Congressman Jim Banks. The last Democratic US Senator from Indiana is Joe Donnelly, currently the US Ambassador to the Holy See.  Donelly was elected in 2012 and lost his reelection bid in 2018.  There are no polls in 2024.  In October, 2023, Jim Banks led Valerie McCray by 9 points – 31 to 22.  Banks is far ahead in the financial race.  On April 17, he had $2.9 million available.  Valerie McCray had $1,300. DONATE TO VALERIE MCCRAY.  Perhaps you can make this into a contest.