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A man of his word, Joe Donnelly’s bipartisanship finds support across Indiana’s political spectrum in Roll Call report

“For Joe Donnelly, a long history of bucking his party”

INDIANAPOLIS - Joe Donnelly’s history of putting Hoosiers before national partisans has established him as an independent voice in Indiana and has many Republicans ready to back him, according to a new Roll Call profile. Traveling with Joe through southwest Indiana on last month’s “Hoosier Highways” RV tour, the paper finds that his work on everything from opioids to protecting health benefits for retired coal miners has won him praise from across the political spectrum. And as Hoosiers across the state increasingly look for bipartisanship in Washington, Joe’s commonsense approach and ability to keep his promises continue to set him apart for moderates and Republicans.

From Roll CallFor Joe Donnelly, a Long History of Bucking His Party

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — The fate of Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly’s re-election bid next year may lie in his ability to convince Hoosiers he’s not always on the same page as the national Democratic Party. Fortunately for him, he has a lot of practice, and has been highly successful at it, going back more than a dozen years.

“The party occasionally gets mad, I really don’t care,” said one of the Democrats’ most endangered incumbents.

So it is no surprise, perhaps, that in 2017, Donnelly has embraced key aspects of President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda, openly criticizes his national party’s failures in last year’s elections, and expresses a strong willingness to support the president when it’s good for Indiana.

Donnelly was one of three Democrats who voted to confirm the president’s pick for the vacant Supreme Court seat, Neil Gorsuch, a decision that provoked a backlash from some liberal Hoosiers.

Still, with Trump’s 19-point victory in Indiana last year, Republicans eye Donnelly’s seat as an opportunity to pad their Senate majority.

However, Indiana voters from all areas of the state say they want their elected officials to take a more centrist approach, which provides Donnelly with an opening.

“In this county, even though it’s Democrat, they are all conservative people,” said Tim Yocum, the first Republican elected to an area-wide seat in Indiana’s Vermillion County in nearly 30 years. “You talk about gun rights. Democrats in this county, very few of them are for gun control. That really is a big thing.”

Donnelly has taken his lumps from liberals over the years for voting against gun control measures. But if Yocum is to be believed, that probably isn’t hurting him much with many Hoosiers.

“A lot of those Trump voters are Joe Donnelly voters,” he said in an interview aboard his RV while in the midst of a weeklong campaign tour around the state. “They aren’t worried about Democrat or Republican.”

On veterans’ issues, combating the opioid epidemic, and the economy, Donnelly supports the actions Trump has taken and the messages he peddled during the election.

“We should never worry about where the idea came from if it makes things a little bit better,” he said. “I work with him on everything that I can, to work together. And my job is to promote Indiana, to move Indiana forward, to make the lives of everyone here better.”

But Donnelly is well-liked by some Republicans and several say they are likely to vote for him in 2018 despite supporting Trump last year.

“He has fought for us the whole way, for the working man,” said Terry Ashby, a 66-year-old retired coal miner from Warrick County. “We just want a person like Donnelly that tells you he is going to do something and does it. He does what he says.”

Many voters across the state echoed Ashby’s comments. They said a growing frustration with Washington, D.C., and the bickering between Republicans and Democrats led them to vote last year for an outside candidate who isn’t afraid to speak his mind.