Mackey keeps focus local in campaign

Thursday, October 15, 2020
Joe Mackey

Campaigning for office in 2020 looks different than it ever has in the past.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way the country does business, and politics is no exception.

For District 4 congressional candidate Joe Mackey (D-Lafayette), that meant adjusting on the fly back in March. Fortunately for the challenger, he had some young volunteers up to the challenge.

“It’s kind of funny,” Mackey told the Banner Graphic in a recent interview. “We got to the shut down there in March. Just prior to that, we were talking to the younger people on the campaign and saying, we’re going to start laying out canvassing crews in targeted areas. We started to lay all this out for them and they were like, ‘We’re going to do what?’ They just weren’t ready to go out and knock on doors and canvass.

“Then shutdown came,” he continued, “and right away these younger people on the campaign staff pivoted us right away into the e-media. They put us out online. We immediately jumped into Zoom events and things of this nature. Having a good mix of older campaigners and younger campaigners really helped us out in those weeks where everybody was trying to figure out what to do. We found we were already doing those things.”

Of course, things have opened up as the state loosened COVID-19 restrictions, though still with precautions. Mask wearing remains important. Open air events have been key, such as meet-and-greets in parks.

Mackey noted that the opinions on things like masks vary in far-flung District 4.

“I know when I get into Cass County, folks up there wear a mask,” Mackey said. “Cass County has been hit very hard. Those folks take it seriously and that’s good to see. We still need to flatten this curve. The more we help each other out, the quicker we can get back to normal.”

Mackey knows a thing or two about what Americans face when it comes to cancer, as he and his wife have buried two teenage children who had two different kinds of cancers. So affordability and access of health care are important topics to him.

“In the more urban areas, affordability is the issue. In the rural areas, it’s also accessibility,” Mackey said. “Americans are being priced out of health care. It’s no longer affordable. We’re watching Americans die for lack of access to insulin, for instance.”

He notes the case of a woman in White County who is a Type 1 diabetic: “It’s cheaper for her to get insulin from Canada than it is at the CVS down the street from where she lives. This is a problem in this country.”

Mackey adds that he worries people like this will become more imperiled if the Affordable Care Act is overturned.

“We’re at risk of the ACA being killed in the Supreme Court,” Mackey said. “If it does, there are no protections for pre-existing conditions. I understand that insurance companies are suggesting that if you’ve had COVID-19, it is considering a pre-existing condition.”

None of this is acceptable to the candidate.

“We need to work on making sure that Americans have access to health care,” Mackey said. “We need to make sure it’s affordable. The fastest-rising cost of living is health care. It’s climbing at a rate of about five percent. It’s expected to start climbing at six percent. As it gets more expensive, the coverage gets narrower and narrower and our out-of-pocket expenses get greater and greater. We have to stop this cycle.”

Specifically, Mackey worries about infant and maternal mortality rates, both of which he cites as being poor in the Fourth District.

“We have 10 rural counties here in the district that have been designated maternal and infant healthcare deserts,” Mackey said. “We’re not even providing basic health care needs for these women and children. Indiana ranks third in the nation in terms of maternal mortality rates — third highest. We’re seventh-highest in infant mortality.

“The state of Indiana in 2017 lost 600 infants to infant mortality incidents,” he added. “Of those 600 children, 268 of them died here in the fourth district — 46 percent. That’s a huge number.”

Public education is another area of concern for Mackey, throughout the country and in the district.

“Out in the rural areas, public school education funding is a concern,” Mackey said, “keeping teachers, providing internet to children that don’t have it.”

“We have entire graduating classes of kids not going to college — not one kid,” he added. “They live in rural areas, they have been denied the opportunity for what I call equitable opportunity in education.”

There are also environmental issues that he sees coming squarely into focus here in Indiana, noting people drinking toxic water in Morgan County as well as 86 coal ash pits throughout the state

“Our Hoosier environment is a very important topic,” Mackey said. “People are paying attention to that now around the district.”

In challenging Congressman Jim Baird (R-Greencastle) Mackey said he wants to go to Washington but keep the focus on what’s happening in his home district.

“I think there’s an overwhelming feeling that too many elected officials are focused too closely on the national rhetoric and have, in the process, completely overlooked their own district in the way of needs,” Mackey said. “I think (voters) want that changed.”

That’s Mackey’s hope, with focus on things such as “underfunded, underequipped and understaffed” volunteer fire departments.

“I had one fire chief tell me he covers his volunteer fire department during the day with 70-year-olds and then prays that nothing bad happens,” Mackey said. “I think as part of rural infrastructure, we could create a grant program that would allow some of these rural communities to invest in their fire departments.

Finally, Mackey said he wants to make sure he is talking to citizens, making sure their voices are heard.

“I think, in the long run, we’ll all be better off if we just kind of pay some attention to what is going on. I know the voters want that. I know what I’m hearing is, ‘Pay attention.’ They are willing to talk if folks will listen.”

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  • In my experience of lobbying on the Hill, no election for a federal office is local. To think so is not realistic. It is about the national perspectives of the parties, what committee's a person gets on, the money they have to raise, and the obligations that go with it, etc.

    This isn't a left vs right issue but the way the system is.

    -- Posted by beg on Fri, Oct 16, 2020, at 12:36 PM
  • *

    Everything this man promotes is based on the growth of government... and government can't grow without revenue (taxes).

    The very wealthy (of which the political class is included) have ways of protecting their money from taxes.

    The poor pay little or nothing in taxes.

    The middle class pays the largest percentage of taxes.

    When the middle class is effectively destroyed by way of these taxes (and their imminent ever-increases) most of those people join the poor.

    This leads to an ever widening gap between "rich" and "poor" where the poor become dirt poor, and the "rich" become untouchable and unattainable.

    Mr Mackey wants to bring you Venezuala - American style.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Fri, Oct 16, 2020, at 4:29 PM
  • I find it hard to believe Mr. Mackey knows of a graduation high school class without a single student headed for college. Maybe he could provide some details.

    -- Posted by Ben Dover on Sun, Oct 18, 2020, at 3:00 PM
  • I do know him. He had a son go to college. He also lost two children to childhood cancer. A daughter who was a freshman. She did in about one to two weeks. The middle child died 5 months after graduated from high school.

    Maybe you need to check a bit more into his life.

    -- Posted by jleer on Mon, Oct 19, 2020, at 2:01 PM
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