9th Congressional District: Democrats seek to retake seat for party


A Democratic candidate has not represented Indiana’s 9th Congressional District since 2010. With the incumbent Republican seeking another office, four candidates are hoping to change that.

Shelli Yoder, James R. McClure Jr., Bill Thomas and Bob Kern are all vying to be the Democratic nominee in the general election. The winner will face one of five Republican candidates in November.

Yoder, of Bloomington, was the Democratic nominee in 2012, eventually losing to incumbent Todd Young. Since then, she won a seat on the Monroe County Council.

Taking what she’s learned working at the county level, as well as her experience teaching at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Yoder said she could help bridge the partisanship in Congress that plagues the legislature.

“I want to represent the 9th District as someone with a proven track record, who can reach across party lines and can get to the business of solving problems, regardless of what letter appears after your name,” she said.

Yoder would work to invest in 21st-century infrastructure, including expanding broadband Internet access to all people, improving roads and investing in high-speed rails.

Her main priority would be to bring and retain high-paying jobs to Indiana, as well as investing in educating and supporting the workforce.

“When given the tools, people want to be able to support themselves, and have a shot at that American promise,” she said. “I want to make sure all people have those opportunities.”

McClure, an IT analyst from Clarksville, ran for the seat in 2014, coming in second in the Democratic primary to Bill Bailey. Though he didn’t win, McClure’s second-place showing in the election motivated him to try again.

“I’m the only Democrat running for this office who can win in November,” he said. “For the Democrats to win this, they need to run a center-right candidate. I believe the principles that I espouse — limited federal government, personal responsibility, individual liberty — are principles that can appeal to Republicans.”

McClure sees the failure of Congress to properly balance the budget, spending too much and borrowing an excessive amount of money. He would work to see the role of the federal government constrained to what was originally spelled out in the Constitution.

His platform includes putting a 10-year moratorium on all immigration until the current problems in the system can be fixed.

McClure would also fight to increase personal liberty. The government has overstepped its bounds in regulating and interfering in the way people live, and that needs to be reversed, he said.

“All people should be treated equally in front of the law, whether they be wealthy, poor, male, female, black or white, whatever,” he said. “The best solution to that is, instead of writing special exemptions in the law that certain groups deserve special coverage, those exemptions should be removed so that everyone is treated equally.”

Thomas also ran in 2014 primary, coming in fourth. The Corydon resident said the government has strayed too far from the intentions of the Founding Fathers, trampling the Constitution.

Spending and infighting is out of control in Congress. He said he would work for a balanced budget and help rein in the ways government has infringed on the rights of gun owners, women and the religious.

He would seek to reduce foreign aid, reform immigration and secure the border. At the same time, he would vote to maintain the country’s military strength while improving support to soldiers and veterans.

Kern has run multiple times for Congress, including in 1998 when he won the Democratic primary for District 6 and faced Dan Burton in the general election.

The Indianapolis resident has launched campaigns for Congress in nearly every election cycle since, most recently finishing third in the 2014 Democratic primary for the District 2 seat, earning 14 percent of the vote.

His reason for running is to represent the people of District 9, offering an alternative to the typical political mechanisms.

“I would not accept endorsements from those who would politically wish to enslave myself,” he said. “I represent all of the people — not just the Democrats, but all of the people.”

If elected, Kern would take special focus on protecting Social Security, emphasize term limits and simplify taxation to make it more fair to all people.

Though he would work to encourage job creation in District 9 and throughout Indiana, he said he would do so more by creating opportunities for people.

“As a Congressman, I’m going to give you the resources to create those jobs. I’ll give you the money, the voucher or whatever it takes, loosen some loopholes, make it possible for some small business loans,” he said. “Indiana Hoosiers are good about creating jobs. They’re smart people.”

Shelli Yoder

Age: 47

Party: Democrat

Family: Husband, Josh Perry; children Ivy, Eden and Oakley

Residence: Bloomington

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne; master’s degrees in counseling and human services from Indiana University-South Bend and divinity from Vanderbilt University

Occupation: Communications, professional and computer skills lecturer at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, teaching Kelley Compass courses

Political experience: Elected to the Monroe County Council in 2013; ran for the District 9 seat in 2012

James McClure

Age: 50

Party: Democrat

Family: Wife Theresa; children James III, Leland, Cassandra and Alexander

Residence: Clarksville

Education: Associate degree from the Community College of the Air Force

Occupation: IT analyst for Scott County Technology Development Corp.

Political experience: Ran for the District 9 seat in 2014

Bill Thomas

Age: 53

Party: Democrat

Family: Wife, Beth; five children, Tyler, Darcey, Morgan, Benjamin and Hunter

Residence: Corydon

Education: Graduate of Massasoit College in Massachusetts, and seminary graduate with degrees in biblical studies and pastoral ministry

Occupation: Author, associate pastor at Mount Zion Church

Political experience: Ran for the District 9 seat in 2014

Bob Kern

Age: 52

Party: Democrat

Residence: Indianapolis

Education: Paralegal degree, studied political science

Occupation: Paralegal

Political experience: Congressional candidate multiple times, including running for the Democratic candidate for the District 2 U.S. Congress seat in 2014.

About the job

9th District: Represents all of Johnson County and areas of the state south to the Ohio River, including the cities of Bloomington, Martinsville, Seymour, Bedford and Clarksville.

Duties: Attend legislative session meetings, vote on and propose measures to the House of Representatives

Term: Two years

Annual salary: $174,000