-Written by Jeff Ward of the Star Press-
A little more than three months since the last election, one candidate is lining up for the next.
Kokomo attorney and Republican Mark Hurt has announced his candidacy to unseat Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly in 2018. He becomes the first announced candidate to seek Donnelly's seat, though speculation hints that Rep. Luke Messer, Rep. Todd Rokita and State Sen. Mike Delph could also run.
Hurt was in Muncie recently to sit for an interview. He has a second law office in Noblesville and he's a 1985 Taylor University graduate. He grew up in Summitville and is a 1980 Madison-Grant graduate. He attended Ball State for one quarter to pick up a political science and Spanish course.
Trotting out themes last heard in earnest in the Reagan and Bush eras (the first Bush, George H.W.), Hurt calls himself a "compassionate conservative" and strongly believes in a foreign policy built on "peace through strength." He opposes the current international deal that is supposed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear arsenal. He also says a lack of leadership in the Obama administration created a power vacuum that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been all-too-eager to fill, and has led to increased threats from China and North Korea.
Closer to home, though, Hurt — who also describes himself as a non-establishment candidate — took a swipe at Donnelly's non-Hoosier origins. (He was born on Long Island near New York City). Hurt said Donnelly's votes against President Trump's nominations "all seem to show a 'New York culture' system... I think we need more Hoosier values. We need someone who understands the culture, whether it's trade, taxes, jobs, foreign policy."
Hurt did praise Donnelly's efforts to improve mental health care for veterans.
On President Trump, Hurt said he deserves patience and some deference, saying if he was in the Senate, he would have supported all of Trump's nominees. As he travels the state, Hurt said Trump has strong support among veterans, farmers and retirees all tired of the status quo. Trump won Indiana last November by 19 percentage points.
Back to being a compassionate conservative, Hurt says legislation is not always the best solution. "For me, so many things that need to happen in life don't happen through laws." Rather, it's how one treats other people, showing respect, even toward people who don't share your opinion. "You talk about the ideas and debate them, but you maintain a comity there, I think a democracy hinges on that."
Hurt says he's pro-life, "But I'm hypocritical if I'm just talking about an issue and not willing to help crisis pregnancy centers." Or helping parents gain access to parenting skills and resources to help raise the child. "We need to support families and not tear them apart."
Besides compassionate conservatism, Hurt also calls himself a common sense conservative. That means he would apply a cost-benefit analysis and education to determine what's best for people. He says it takes someone who has not been in government all their life "to really understand how you bring solutions to problems." Too much legislation is being passed, he said, but lawmakers don't know what's in the bills. "Common sense is people should know what's being debated. People they elect should know what's in the bills before they pass them."
On Obamacare, Hurt is in favor of keeping some parts of it, such as allowing children to remain on their parents' health plans until age 26; elimination of preexisting conditions; removing lifetime caps on care and guaranteed insurance renewal. He wants people to buy insurance that can be tailored to the care they need and taking measures to spur competition. "You got to have more insurance companies serving in order to reduce costs."
Hurt worked for Sen. Dan Coats and Michigan Gov. John Engler and for Fred Grandy, the former congressman from Iowa, perhaps better known for playing "Gopher" on "The Love Boat" in the 1970s and '80s. He also has one other tie to pop culture. Hurt says his mother, Bettie, rode the school bus with James Dean while growing up in the Fairmount area. Dean, as you know, would go on to be a notable actor.