Indy Star profiles 9th-district Democrats

The Indy Star’s Jon Murray has a report today on the Democratic candidates in the 9th District primary.

Several Democrats bring attention-grabbing backgrounds. Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Jonathan George most recently served as a national security adviser to President Barack Obama. Robert Winningham was an aide to then-U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, the Democrat who occupied the same House seat for 34 years.

And Shelli Yoder, the race’s only woman, is a former Miss Indiana who has picked up some weighty endorsements.

Murray draws a good picture of the redrawn district — more Republican-friendly exurbs, a more expensive media market that includes both Indianapolis and Lousiville, and a cash advantage for the GOP incumbent.

He then gives quick profiles of each of the Democratic candidates:

George, 55, who retired from the military early last year and tends to farmland he owns in Lawrence County, began raising money early and seeking support. He said he sees a congressional seat as a way to continue serving his country by offering up his leadership skills in the civilian world.

Winningham, 50, also got an early start. He moved his family to Charlestown last year after spending more than a decade in Texas, working as an economic development director and caring for his ailing parents. He worked for Hamilton from 1992 to 1998, handling community and economic development projects in Hamilton’s Jeffersonville office.

George and Winningham started the year with about $20,000 in their campaign funds.

Yoder, 43, didn’t join the race until the day of the deadline in February — motivated, she said, by “what I saw as the war on working families and the war on women” in national politics.

“I am just a concerned citizen who is tired of just feeling beaten down, tired of feeling my voice doesn’t matter,” said Yoder, who won the Miss Indiana pageant in 1992. She is associate director of professional development for IU’s Kelley School of Business in Bloomington.

The other candidates are John Griffin Miller, 55, Corydon, the business manager for a military charity based across the Ohio River near Fort Knox, Ky., and John W. Tilford, 65, a retired military intelligence officer and civil servant who lives in rural Monroe County.

Jonathan George was highly touted as a recruited candidate by the DCCC, but they’ve been pretty quiet about it since October. I was impressed with the early efforts by the George campaign, who reached out to 2010 state convention delegates and issued pitch-perfect statements on the GOP’s anti-union law. Then, it seemed like the campaign went silent for a few months. I’ve seen a handful of George yard signs pop up here in Southern Indiana, but that’s about it.

Most of my Bloomington friends have been increasingly excited by Shelli Yoder’s campaign. (Disclosure: I know several people working and volunteering for the campaign.) She’s racked up an impressive list of endorsements; while the Star piece focused on former 9th District Chair Mike Jones, I’m more impressed by the endorsements of Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan and 2010 Auditor candidate Sam Locke.

I don’t know Robert Winningham, but he does have a fairly big yard-sign presence here in Jeffersonville, his home base. I have heard some grumblings that he was an active campaigner for Republicans during his decade in Texas.

I’m not sure who will win. The moderate George, with his impressive credentials, is the kind of candidate who might be able to pick up some crucial DCCC money in the general election. But with the trend of party spending falling behind non-party PACs, maybe a more liberal candidate like Yoder will be able to excite the base and attract money from liberal groups. As for Winningham, he may have the connections to attract some big donors, but if his campaign thinks his economic development background will stop business groups from wholeheartedly backing Todd Young, then they’re delusional.

In any case, I’m just happy to see several strong candidates emerge. Any of these candidates would provide better representation and leadership for the 9th District than Todd Young.