LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - The people living in the U.S. House of Representatives 4th Indiana District will get to have a say on who represents them in Washington D.C. for the next two years. News 18 talked with the incumbent and challenger about what their priorities will be if elected.
Democrat Joe Mackey is challenging Republican Incumbent Jim Baird.
Baird said his life experience gives him perspective as a leader in Congress. He's a farmer, a Purdue grad, a decorated Vietnam veteran, a business owner a former Putnam County Commissioner and a former state representative. He won the congressional seat in 2018 after Todd Rokita retired to run for Senate.
"Being able to bring the conservative attitude that we have, that work ethic we have in that district, and bring it to Washington, to have it at the legislative table," he said.
He said he is proud of his work on the Committee of Agriculture during the pandemic, including getting farmers PPP grants and starting the Farmers to Families program.
"The USDA was able to purchase dairy products, purchase specialty crops or they were able to purchase meat and take those through food banks," he said.
He wants to continue to improve STEM opportunities as he serves on the Committee for Science, Space and Technology. He said he was able to work with Democrats like Rep. Haley Stevens of Michigan on this committee to help pass a bill into law that provides support to women in STEM. He said he is grateful to the mentors he while a student at Purdue who helped encourage him to follow his passions in life.
He said if re-elected, he will focus on the issues of agriculture, science and helping to get the country back on its feet financially after the losses experienced due to the pandemic. He said he also sees a unique bridge between science and agriculture.
"I think farmers and ranchers are well aware of the importance of their environment and climate change," he said. "We are concerned about climate change and I think agriculture has a place and has opportunity to do carbon capturing in some regard."
The district encompasses the following counties: Newton, Jasper, Benton, White, Cass, Carroll, Tippecanoe, Warren, Fountain, Montgomery, Clinton, Putnam, Hendricks and parts of Boone, Howard and Morgan counties. It's been 25 years since a Democrat represented the district when Jill Long served from 1989-1995.
"We must have candidates who are willing to go to government and say these problems are real problems and we want them fixed," said Joe Mackey.
Democrat Joe Mackey is a retired machinist who worked at Caterpillar. He said his motivation to run for office comes from tragedy.
"My wife and I lost two of our three children to cancer in the span of 30 months, two distinctly different cancers, and no one could tell us why," he said.
His 15-year-old daughter Claire was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia in 2013. According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, APL most commonly affects adults over 40. It is also the same form of Leukemia former Colts Coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with. He said Claire was on track to become a swimmer at Central Catholic when she died just days after her diagnosis.
His teenage son, Patrick, was a football player for Central Catholic when he was diagnosed with a different rare form of Leukemia. He passed away in 2015. Mackey said these cancers were not genetically related, so he searched the state for answers.
"I started understanding the relationship between the environment and health, If our environment isn't healthy, our families arent healthy," he said. He found in his travels several Indiana counties that have serious environmental problems that are linked to illnesses and cancer, including Morgan, Johnson and Lake Counties. It helped put the importance of climate change in perspective for him.
He said his family incurred millions of dollars in medical bills, so they started the "Claire E. and Patrick G. Mackey Children's Cancer Foundation" to help other families who have children with cancer make ends meet.
"We understand the exorbitant costs of health care," he said. "We understand that families are struggling to buy the very medicines that are required to keep them and their loved ones alive."
He said he is fighting for non-partisan issues that impact rural communities. His family experience has also shown him the importance of accessibility to health care. He said he will fight to lower Indiana's high maternal and infant mortality rates and to make public education equitable.
"I believe the 4th congressional district, if we address these problems wisely, we'll be setting an example for rural communities across the country," he said.
Click here to learn more about Jim Baird's campaign.
Click here to learn more about Joe Mackey's campaign.