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Donnelly 'hopeful' about country's future

FORT WAYNE -- Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, served up cookies, coffee and confidence during a Wednesday campaign stop in Fort Wayne.

“I’m very hopeful not only for our state but for our country. I see jobs coming back,” the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate said at a table in the Friendly Fox restaurant on South Wayne Avenue.

“We’re home from Iraq; we are in the process of coming home from Afghanistan by the middle of next year. That’s a huge thing,” he said about the winding down of two wars.

The Granger resident was finishing his three-day “kitchen-table tour” of Indiana, in which he talked with invited guests at restaurants and cafés in 10 cities.

Five people – a retired couple, a schoolteacher, a small-business consultant and a union official – did not seem as optimistic as Donnelly during their chat over refreshments in Fort Wayne.

“I’d like to see more cooperation” among Congress and the White House, said Donna Belch, who is retired from Parkview Hospital.

Her husband, Charlie Belch, an insurance industry retiree, former chairman of the Allen County Democratic Party and 1991 mayoral candidate, said he wants lawmakers to approve a single-payer health care system, but “I don’t think they are going to do that.”

Jennifer Court, an instructional coach at Forest Park Elementary School, lamented federal school performance standards that fail to account for the challenge of teaching students with special needs, nor those from low-income families or homes where little English is spoken.

Glenn Head, a representative for Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local.4, complained about the right-to-work bill the state legislature passed this session. The law prohibits workplace agreements that require all workers covered by a union contract to pay representation fees.

“They are trying to divide us,” Head said about the GOP majority in the legislature. “They want to create job-site disruption.”

Donnelly said “not once” since he was elected to Congress in 2006 has a business or company said it needed a right-to-work law.

“It seems to me this was just picking a fight,” he said.

Nobody asked Donnelly about his campaign to unseat Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., or about Lugar’s challenger in the GOP primary election, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.