Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Mourdock: Backs Social Policy Timing for Challenger Could Be Just Right in Political Climate

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Mourdock: Backs Social Policy Timing for Challenger Could Be Just Right in Political Climate

Article excerpt

INDIANAPOLIS -The prologue to Richard Mourdock's political philosophy was written in 2000 - long before he became the subject of national attention - when, as a Vanderburgh County commissioner, he set out to decide a zoning issue. A wealthy restaurateur whose grandson was mentally disabled sought to build "Jacob's Village," a residential and commercial development where the disabled would receive care and could take jobs with businesses equipped to employ them. It was an idea that had supporters, but also vocal opponents, in the social services community who said it was a step away from fully immersing and integrating the disabled into society.

"It became a great argument: Is it good social policy to say those folks should be contained - some would say isolated - or should they live everywhere in the community? It was a huge political issue," he said.

It was up to the county commissioners to decide whether the project could go forward. Ultimately, they gave it the green light.

"I finally came to the conclusion that it was a matter of personal choice," Mourdock said. "It was one of those defining moments."

Nine years later, that same philosophical strain was evident as Mourdock, the state treasurer, took a challenge of Chrysler's bankruptcy proceedings, on behalf of Indiana pension funds that he said were shorted in the deal, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It also shows up in his challenge against U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar in the May 8 Republican primary. Mourdock is arguing for a dramatically scaled-back role of government, including abolishing five federal agencies.

"When you listen to where he stands on the issues, it's everything conservatives stand for," said Monica Boyer, a Tea Party activist who co-chairs the statewide coalition Hoosiers for Conservative Senate.

Mourdock seems to be peaking at the right time. He said he feels like he "just crossed Heartbreak Hill in the Boston Marathon," a comment from a finisher of nine marathons that means it's downhill from here.

"I've seen the emotions go up and down. I've seen the cycles of tiredness at the statewide level. And I have never seen this energy - it's like a horse race. People are ready to get out of the gate," Boyer said.

Professionally, Mourdock is a geologist - a job he said he started chasing when, as a high school student, he saw astronauts landing on the moon and collecting rock samples. "I wanted to be an astronaut.

I wanted to go to the moon," he said. "I became a science geek, especially geared toward geology."

After earning his master's degree from Ball State University, he worked in the energy business. "I literally was chasing drill rigs around. It would be set up somewhere, and I would pull up to it. There was a logging instrument I would drop down a couple thousand feet, records property of the rocks, and I would do analysis from that," he said.

He later worked in business end positions for Koester Cos. and Standard Oil of Ohio, among others, and launched his own consulting company.

That happened while he chased his dream of entering political life - something he developed in the years after he was married, as he set a goal of breaking from the boredom of nighttime television by reading history.

He ran for the 8th District U.S. House seat three times, in 1988, 1990 and 1992, and lost each time.

In between those races, in 1991, Mourdock took on a different, but still political, job: stopping the formation of a union at the Buck Creek mine in Sullivan County.

He was a vice president for Koester Cos., which bought the mine the year after a union organizing vote ended in a tie.

Following that vote were a slew of grievances filed with the National Labor Relations Board, and Mourdock's company agreed to a second election that it thought it would win.

"We thought we could convince the workforce we were a better deal than going into the union," Mourdock said. …

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