After months of speeches, fundraisers, handshakes and kissed babies, voters in Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District will decide whether Democrat Brendan Mullen or Republican Jackie Walorski will represent them on Capitol Hill. Notre Dame professor and former political reporter Jack Colwell said the race is still close with only four days remaining until Election Day. “At the start of the race, it was generally regarded as Jackie’s district,” Colwell said. “She unsuccessfully ran against [Sen.] Joe Donnelly in 2010, but came close. She also has a lot of name recognition, where Mullen is virtually unknown.” Colwell said the Republican-controlled state legislature redrew voting district lines in a way likely to incorporate more right-leaning voters in the district, favoring Walorski’s odds. “She began as a very heavy favorite, but Mullen came on in an impressive way,” Colwell said. “Whether he can actually catch up and win is far from certain, but he’s made a race of it that’s shown by some of the national groups spending heavily in this district now. Neither side would spend if they figured the race was over.” With voters looking for more bipartisanship, both candidates stress their willingness to reach across the aisle in Washington, Colwell said. “Jackie is saying she would be an independent voice and Mullen says he’d be a moderate, along the lines of Joe Donnelly, the Democrat who represents the district now,” he said. The spending includes funds from political consultant Karl Rove’s Super PAC, American Crossroads, which is backing Walorski. Mullen is getting support from Democratic PACs and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Name recognition has been difficult for Mullen in these new areas. To draw enough votes, Colwell said Mullen must win big in St. Joseph County, the most populous county of the 10 in the district, because his chances in the other nine are not good. Part of the headwinds Mullen will face throughout the district, Colwell said, comes from his opponent’s associating him with controversial figures and policies in Washington. “Walorski is trying to portray him as a Washington insider who was recruited by [House of Representatives minority leader] Nancy Pelosi to try and run in the district, and links him to President Obama and Obamacare,” Colwell said. “Mullen tries to link her to the Tea Party, which indeed did support her; Richard Mourdock, the Indiana Republican senatorial candidate who recently made controversial comments about abortion; and calls her a career politician.” The two candidates’ first and only television debate together occurred Tuesday at WSBT studios in Mishawaka. Mullen and Walorski also held a radio debate in Wabash, Ind., on Oct. 25. Colwell said Mullen came across as more assertive than Walorski in the debates because of the “prevent defense” Walorski has adopted to preserver her favorable poll numbers. “Mullen tried to get in all of his points and was critical of Walorski on the privatization of social security,” Colwell said. “Walorski seemed more intent on not making a mistake to preserve what’s assumed to be her lead.” Colwell attributed some of the contention in the race to the district’s residents’ moderate political leanings. “Both parties in seeking control of the House will zero in on this district as one that could be won,” Colwell said. “There are a lot of congressional districts across the country where it’s obvious that one party will win, but if it’s close, both sides will come in spending millions of dollars to make television stations happy.”
This spring break, eight Notre Dame students will travel far outside the Notre Dame bubble to consider the role of religion in politics from a global perspective. Sponsored by the Keough School of Global Affairs and the University, students in the class “Holy Cross-roads: Religion and Politics from South Bend to South Asia” will travel to Oman to meet with students in a parallel course from Notre Dame University Bangladesh, a school established in 2013 by the Congregation of Holy Cross. The aim of the course is to look at the intersection of religion and politics across three cultural contexts: the United States, the Middle East and South Asia.“It started as a course on religion and global politics and then we thought about how to make it more broadly a cultural exchange,” professor Jason Klocek said. “The real impetus was to try to connect students here at Notre Dame and students at Notre Dame University Bangladesh, two places where Holy Cross has been instrumental in both founding and running universities.”The two groups of students will meet at the Al Amana Centre in Oman, which has worked to foster inter-religious and intercultural dialogue since its founding in 1987. The week will be a combination of instruction, cultural activities and downtime in which the students, who will be living together, can interact more freely and find common ground.“It just so happens that the students that are going to be coming with us and meeting us in Oman will be Muslim, so that’s just another layer of what we’re hoping to have [in] this exchange between not just students at different schools, but students with different faith backgrounds, students with different identities,” Klocek said.The course is offered through the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion and is part of a larger effort by the Keough School to develop a curriculum that studies the relationship between religion and global affairs. Having real dialogue is vital to looking at the issue non-normatively, Klocek said.“In courses here, you can explore and analyze the questions but it’s hard to experience them, particularly when it comes to religion and politics,” he said. “Understanding that it’s not a question of do they mix or is there a right way [for them to] mix, but rather thinking about: ‘How do they mix in different ways?’”A key aspect of the class is the questions it asks, a set of queries Klocek described as “questions that keep people up at night.” A recent assignment asked students to consider the recent arrest of a folk singing group in Bangladesh accused of being anti-Muslim.“I asked the students to think about just sort of what questions does this raise about the relationship between religion and politics in Bangladesh, the future of pluralism in Bangladesh and then how does that compare to debates going on the U.S.,” Klocek said. “There are debates about school prayer, for example, in the U.S.; so again, it’s not to say what’s going on in Bangladesh is worse than the U.S., but think about why it’s going on and then how does that make us rethink what’s going on here.”Sophomore Ciara Donovan noted the class has been particularly helpful in grounding her understanding of whether and how religion and politics should mix.“I think our professor does a really good job of kind of trying to dispel any negative notions we have about religion in politics, but also view them through a critical lens,” Donovan said. “So, it’s also important—especially when we’re talking about the U.S. and religion — realizing that religion isn’t a partisan issue, it’s not owned by one political party. It may be used specifically by one side more than the other, but it’s not uniquely partisan.”For Klocek, the class is an opportunity to help students be more conscious of the presence of religion on campus and in politics, which he believes is often overlooked.“Religion and politics and Holy Cross kind of fade into the background on campus,” Klocek said. “It’s everywhere, but then at the same time you don’t notice it. You have lots of interactions with Holy Cross priests, but it was interesting to me that people might not necessarily know their history and their organization and just sit down and talk about that.”Rather than putting religion in a box, the class tries to come to a better understanding of the ways in which religion plays an unconscious role in human decisions.“I think we often think about religion as causing things,” Klocek said. “Most of the time in the news, you’ll get a story about how someone did something because of their religious beliefs, whether that’s violence or peace … and so one thing we’ve talked a lot about is how religion also shapes our behavior. … Maybe you’re not walking around every day doing what you do because of religion. But religion is shaping where you gather, when you gather, how you do things, who you do it with.”Tags: congregation of holy cross, Keough School of Global Affairs, Oman, religion
Batesville Superintendent Dr. Jim Roberts and Batesville Tool & Die President Jody Fledderman featured on Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick.Update (June 7 @ 5:20 a.m.)A local school and business partnership was the focus of a television segment Sunday on Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick.Batesville Community School Corporation Superintendent Jim Roberts and Tool & Die President and CEO Jody Fledderman discussed the venture that’s gaining statewide attention.The program prepares high school students for a career in Advanced Manufacturing. Upon completion of the 2-year program, a student could nearly gain an associate’s degree through Ivy Tech by the time of high school graduation.If you missed the television segment Sunday it is not too late as you can watch it here >>First Report (June 6 @ 6:30 a.m.)The partnership between Batesville High School, Ivy Tech and local companies is getting more attention statewide.Batesville Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Roberts and Jody Fledderman, president and chief executive officer of Batesville Tool & Die, will appear on Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick.The program will air on WTHR Channel 13 at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 8.The focus will be on the mentorship and career opportunities offered to high school students through the school and business partnership.Students that take part in the program have an opportunity to gain a Core 40 High School Diploma, earn post-secondary credits toward an Ivy Tech Associate’s Degree, and get “on the job” technical training.Area businesses currently partnering with BHS and Ivy Tech include Batesville Tool & Die, Hillenbrand, Inc., Hill-Rom, Heartwood Manufacturing, and Virtus, Inc.