Yet, Nelson took David’s slingshot to county fairs and other forums around the 16-county District 4, trying to win a seat in Congress by unseating the former Indiana secretary of state, and a state Tea Party favorite. Since she won the Democratic primary in May against Lester Terry Moore, she has quietly been connecting with voters, choosing face-to-face, grassroots campaigning.
“I’m talking to all the constituents -- Democrats and Republicans -- and everyone seems to agree that we shouldn’t have tax incentives for outsourcing jobs,” Nelson said in an interview with OurTown.com. “That’s something Todd Rokita supports. People don’t support the changes in Medicare that’s in the Paul Ryan’s budget plan and that’s something Todd Rokita supports. I’m just making them aware of what he’s done in office. I’m for the middle class, jobs and bringing jobs back to this country.”
District 4 stretches as far north as Jasper County and south as the northern tip of Morgan County. It includes Benton, Boone, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Hendricks, Howard, Montgomery, Newton, Putnam, Tippecanoe and Warren counties. Rokita won the district with 68.6 percent of the vote in 2010, Nelson said, though, that she believed she will run strong in her home Tippecanoe County and will help her erode that number in November.
“I feel the race is winnable and I haven’t seen him doing that much campaigning at public events,” Nelson said. “That’s an advantage to me. He has a lot of money. He can use it to his advantage but I’m out meeting the people and he’s not. I don’t think people are happy with Congress. I think that’s another advantage.”
Nelson, a graduate of Harrison High School, educated at Kaplan College and is now a project management professional, said she is running on a platform of affordable education and health care, fair gasoline prices, improved veteran services, tax incentives for businesses that keep jobs in the United States, protecting social security and bringing down the national debt.
“I feel like the individual tax mandate is putting a burden on lower and middle income families who can’t afford insurance as it is,” Nelson said. “A penalty for not being able by buy health insurance doesn’t seem constitutional to me. If you’re going to pay a tax, I think you should receive a service in return. That’s something I would be interested in working with the Republican Party to create.”
Nelson said while never serving in public office before, her real life experience as a single parent working in the district can be a valuable voice in Congress. She said the debate in Washington, D.C. is often void of the concerns of everyday people and their challenges.
“I’ve had to work two jobs to support my family,” Nelson said. “I had to wait three years to get child support. I started making a list of things that could and should be changed at the state and federal level. My list was growing so much that I felt maybe I should be running for office since I was identifying these weaknesses.”
She said Rokita is part of the gridlock in U.S. House of Representatives that at times have brought lawmaking to a standstill and is working against the middle class and not for it.
The Rokita campaign countered, saying he has worked on behalf of Indiana and all Americans by tackling the debt and other issues pursued by his colleagues in Congress. He said that he has worked hard to reach out to Hoosiers from all walks of life.
“In 2010, I ran to address the biggest crisis facing our republic: our national debt, which is now nearly $16 trillion. I’ve continued that fight since I was elected, but we’ve got a long way to go to turn the tide,” Rokita said to OurTown.com through an email from a campaign spokesman.
“I’ve made a great effort to stay in touch with the concerns of Hoosiers as I’ve traveled across the 4th District. They’ve given me some great ideas and have held me accountable to the job I was elected to do. As Secretary of State, I drove more than 45,000 miles per year in visiting all 92 counties in Indiana, and I’ve taken the same approach to the district I now represent.”
Of all the differences one can point to between the candidates, one of biggest is tax and tax reform. Nelson supports the Democratic position of letting the Bush tax cuts for higher wage earners expire while Rokita wants to maintain the current tax rates and have more comprehensive tax reform.
“I support going back to the Bill Clinton era rates (for high wage earners),” Nelson said. “The Bush tax cuts aren’t working for us. I think we all need to pay our share. Forty percent of our taxes are allocated for military defense and I think that we need withdraw in Afghanistan.
Right now, the middle class concerns are being ignored and Congress is pandering to the corporations and wealthy.”
Rokita said: “We’ve also got a big debate coming up on tax reform. We absolutely need to fix our overly complicated tax code, which is full of loopholes and exemptions, and replace it with a fairer, flatter system. That’s why I recently voted in the House to stop the tax hike looming at the end of this year, and to lay out a path for comprehensive tax reform next year.”
Democrats have struggled in this district in recent years, but Nelson said she plans on fighting for every vote. She said she was happy with the support she has received from the Democratic Party. Heather Maddox, head of the Tippecanoe County Democratic Party in Lafayette, said Nelson will be a dedicated worker in Congress.
“Unfortunately, District 4 has not been a very competitive district for Democrats,” Maddox said. “With that said Tara offers a stark contrast to Todd Rokita and will be a strong voice for the working people of District 4. Tara is working hard, traveling through the district and listening to what folks want and need from their Representative. She will continue to work just as hard as Congresswoman of the 4th District.”
Nelson said her campaign is designed to reach everyday people on the streets of Lafayette and other locations in District 4. She said by reaching out to voters on the grassroots level, she hopes to show that she can speak for their issues in Washington. She said that’s the best way she can reach her Goliath of an opponent in Rokita.
“I want the voters to think of me as their representative who will represent the middle class and will be available as their representative and support them with their concerns at any level,” Nelson said.