TIPTON – Kokomo attorney and U.S. Senate candidate Mark Hurt stopped in Tipton Friday morning, glad-handing local voters at the Jim Dandy diner before giving a public speech and answering questions about President Donald Trump, tax reform and the contentious Republican primary race.
Hurt, running against a cohort of Republicans hoping to challenge incumbent Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly next November, conceded that he is a heavy underdog in the Senate race and on Friday continued his effort to get the necessary signatures for placement on the primary ballot.
To be on the ballot, Senate candidates are required to submit 500 signatures from registered voters in each of the state’s nine congressional districts. A handful of people put their names down at Jim Dandy after speaking briefly with Hurt.
Hurt said he currently has somewhere between 500 to 1,000 signatures, a significant portion of which were collected at the Indiana State Fair. Hurt expects upcoming events like the Tipton Pork Festival and Marshall County Blueberry Festival to provide more support.
It’s likely the majority of signatures for Hurt will come from registered Indiana Republicans, people who likely voted for Trump in a state he won by 19 points. And in an interview after the speech, Hurt gave his opinion on the president.
Specifically, Hurt discussed last month's racially-charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the subsequent comments made by Trump, specifically those given during a combative press conference at Trump Tower in New York.
While some in the Republican Party subtly criticized Trump’s equivocal statements, others supported his sentiments but bemoaned the president’s delivery. Hurt mainly fell into the latter category, condemning the removal of Confederate statues and monuments.
“Number one, I don’t think Trump’s racist,” said Hurt. “I don’t think we have revisionist history. That happened in Russia where they tore down monuments and they said some things that happened didn’t happen. I don’t think in America we teach our kids true history if they don’t know everything that happened.”
“I want racial reconciliation,” he added. “I think in the inner cities, especially, so important to build bridges so churches can work together to deliver social services. We see it in Kokomo with the Rescue Mission.”
Hurt, went on to also criticize the president’s continued use of Twitter, saying “it’d be better to…not communicate in that venue."
Mostly, though, Hurt bristled at the notion that Trump’s comments were racially motivated, going as far as to reference senior White House adviser and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s Orthodox Jewish faith, explaining “[Trump's] son, Jewish individual – I don’t see any racism there. But I think the communication of the message could have been better.”
“I wouldn’t talk in that fashion,” he added later about Twitter, noting that Trump’s message still “resonates in a way people really feel.”
On Friday, Hurt also focused largely on the primary issues of his campaign, most of which compare or contrast in some significant way to Donnelly’s votes in Washington and his nascent campaign.
Hurt was joined by a California-based film producer working on a campaign commercial prior to the campaign team's next stop in Anderson.
“I really think that it’s key that we go with President Trump’s plan to reduce taxes, only have two or three rates and make it simpler, more fair,” said Hurt during his speech, explaining his desire to lower the corporate tax rate in an effort to keep companies in America.
And in a continued talking point from his campaign announcement in February, Hurt expressed his disagreement with the Iranian nuclear deal and Donnelly’s vote in favor of the agreement, which he believes helps fund “Hezbollah, Hamas, terrorist organizations that seek to overthrow Israel.”
“I think that we threw [Israel] under the bus for about eight years,” he said, referencing the tenure of Barack Obama’s presidency.
Hurt then laid out the need to better provide mental illness treatment for veterans, saying that “we’re just not spending enough money.” Veterans are considered one of Donnelly’s strongest voter bases, evidenced by the incumbent senator’s decision to announce his re-election campaign at the Speedway VFW.
About Trump’s executive order banning transgender people from the military, a measure that is currently under Pentagon review, Hurt said he will support the ban if Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and others determine the presence of transgender military troops “negatively impacts our military preparedness, our military readiness.”
“I haven’t read it thoroughly, but from what I see, especially on submarines that are out for a year, they’re thinking that that hurts our national security, some of those policies," he said.
"I have no problem with the recommendation” to ban transgender military members, added Hurt, noting that he originally supported the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy when Bill Clinton was president.
“I would look at it thoroughly, but what I’ve seen so far, I have no opposition.”
While in Anderson this week, Donnelly said he doesn’t see the point of a transgender ban, noting that if someone wants to serve “I’m more than willing and happy to welcome them into the service of our nation," reported The Herald Bulletin.
Concerning the Republican primary race, and the vicious battles already underway between U.S. Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, Hurt urged “convicted civility,” or the ability to have strong convictions that can be communicated in a respectful way.
Hurt acknowledged, however, the difficulties of fundraising against those better-known politicians, noting that his money has so far come solely from individuals within a “grassroots conservative campaign.”