Date: April 28,2016
Author: Ken de la Bastide
ANDERSON – For the second consecutive primary, Republican Susan Brooks is facing a challenge from an opponent who believes she is not conservative enough for the district.
The 5th Congressional District extends from northern Marion County to Marion and includes all of Madison County. The district includes the Republican strongholds of Hamilton and Tipton counties.
Brooks won a hotly contested primary in 2012 to win the nomination when incumbent Republican Dan Burton decided not to seek another term.
Two years ago, she defeated David Stockdale, a favorite of the tea party organizations.
This year she is being opposed by Steve MacKenzie and Mike Campbell. Campbell lives outside the district in Cambridge City and ran in 2014, but has not actively campaigned for the nomination. Campbell did not return a request for an interview by The Herald Bulletin.
During her four years in the U.S. House, Brooks has worked in a bipartisan fashion with Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., to pass legislation on opiate use and in support of funding for the Eisenhower Bridge replacement in Anderson.
Brooks, 55, said she hopes the people of the district likes the job she is doing and will elect her to another term.
“I’m very proud to have represented the 5th District in Congress for two terms,” she said. “I believe my background and experience has translated into some successes.”
Brooks is a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana and served as a vice president with Ivy Tech Community College.
She is focused on national security and public health issues and serves on the House Committee investigating the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic offices in Benghazi.
Brooks said a subcommittee she serves on is establishing a task force to get input from patients and providers to establish guidelines for more effective prescribing of opiate drugs.
“There is a heroin epidemic not just in Indiana but around the country,” she said. “This would be a big part of the solution.”
Brooks has pushed for the Federal Drug Administration to work on developing a treatment, testing and vaccine for the zika virus and the impact on pregnant women and the long-term effects.
Using her experience with Ivy Tech, Brooks is seeking to reform the workforce development system to make it more efficient.
She wants programs to help the unemployed and underemployed find good-paying jobs in the district.
“We need to raise people out of poverty and back into the workforce,” Brooks said. “The system needs to be changed to break the generational problem of people not working.”
Concerning the Affordable Care Act, Brook wants to see the national health insurance system reformed and noted she voted several times to defund the program.
Brooks said Republicans in the U.S. House are working to unveil an agenda to address national security, jobs and health care.
“People want a more secure country,” she said. “There is an uncertainty about the future.”
Another concern is the national debt. Brooks supports a plan that will protect Social Security and Medicare and reform Medicaid to lower the costs.
“To govern we have to begin to work with members from the other side of the aisle on the tough issues.”
Brooks said she ranked the highest of any member of the Indiana delegation in the Congress on the Lugar Index for bipartisanship conducted by the Lugar Center.
MacKenzie, 51, said Brooks is not representing the intentions of the people of the district.
He grew up in Maine and moved to the Fishers area in 2000 where he works as a consultant. He is an 18-year member of the Air Force Reserve.
MacKenzie said Brooks follows the party leadership in the U.S. House and special interest groups.
He has labeled Brooks a RINO (Republican in name only).
“It’s not just my opinion that she is not a conservative,” MacKenzie said. “The Heritage Foundation gives her a 47 percent rating, the lowest of any Republican from Indiana.”
He is critical of her past support for former House Speaker John Boehner and her votes to raise the federal debt ceiling.
“Since she took office, the national debt has increased by $4 trillion,” MacKenzie said. “In the latest budget proposal, she didn’t vote to defund Planned Parenthood.”
MacKenzie is opposed to President Barack Obama’s intention to bring 100,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S.
“There is no accurate database to track people in Syria,” he said. “We need to help them, but should establish refugee camps in their own region.”
MacKenzie said the GOP leadership in the district didn’t want him to oppose Brooks in the primary.
“It’s a closed process,” he said. “The leadership should encourage an open format and not shut down candidates with a difference of opinion.
“She doesn’t reflect the views of the district, which is very conservative,” MacKenzie said.