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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, November 09, 2017 1:00 am

Veteran might take on Donnelly

Report: Lake County resident to run in primary

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., might have a challenger for his party's nomination.

IndyPolitics.org reported this week that Iraq War veteran Martin Del Rio of Lake County will be a U.S. Senate candidate in the Democratic primary election in May.

Del Rio's website identifies him as a Highland resident who was raised by “a very low-income family” in East Chicago, studied business at Indiana University, enlisted in the Indiana National Guard, deployed to Iraq, returned home, became “entirely destitute” and eventually became an advocate in the Army Wounded Warrior Program.

On his “Issues” page, Del Rio says he favors universal health care, women's reproductive rights, safety training for gun buyers, strengthening labor unions and creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

His website does not appear to identify Del Rio's political party affiliation. It describes him as “A voice that fights for the People, not the party.” Clicking on a primary election ballot petition reveals that he has checked the box next to Democratic Party. To qualify for the 2018 ballot, Del Rio must collect the signatures of 500 registered voters in each of Indiana's nine congressional districts.

Jim Wieser, chairman of the Lake County Democratic Party, said county voting records show Del Rio first registered to vote in 2015. He voted in the 2016 general election but not in last year's primary election, Wieser said.

“I've never known him to be involved in any political activity whatsoever” involving a political group, Wieser said in a telephone interview.

The Journal Gazette first learned about Del Rio's candidacy from the Republican National Committee, which regularly criticizes Donnelly in emails to news media.

“Martin Del Rio's primary bid against Donnelly proves that Hoosiers have seen enough and are ready to elect someone else next year,” Michael Joyce, Indiana communications director for the RNC, said in an email.

Donnelly, a former U.S. House member from Granger, was elected to the Senate in 2012. The only Democrat to hold statewide office in Indiana, Donnelly reported having $4.6 million in campaign cash as of Sept. 30, nearly twice as much money as any of the six Republicans who seek to unseat him.

John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, said in a statement that the party's State Central Committee had endorsed Donnelly and in doing so “cited his commonsense record in Congress fighting for working Hoosier families, supporting good-paying jobs here in Indiana and protecting access to quality, affordable health care.”

Zody also said, “We're grateful to Martin Del Rio for his service to our country, and we hope he continues to find ways to get involved in public service and the political process in the future.”

Announced candidates for the Republican Senate nomination are U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, former Indiana state representative Mike Braun, Hamilton County entrepreneur Terry Henderson, Kokomo attorney Mark Hurt and New Albany college administrator Andrew Takami.

bfrancisco@jg.net