GREENWOOD, Ind. — The night began with a weather report. It ended with a rallying cry for Nov. 6.
Shelli Yoder, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House’s Indiana 9th District, wandered among guests at the Johnson County Democrats’ Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner on Thursday at a Greenwood country club.
She hadn’t made it to her seat when the local party’s chair began introductions. Even once she had, she leaned toward her neighbor at the table set before the podium and whispered, smiling.
Former Greenwood, Ind., Mayor Margaret McGovern was the next to stand at the podium where only moments before a cardboard cutout of President Obama stood smiling at the assembled Democrats, mostly middle-aged and in suits and dresses, at round tables bedecked with white linens.
“Hurricane Isaac is on its way to Tampa, where the Republicans will have their convention next week.”
She paused. A few chuckled. Suddenly, the whole room began to applaud.
It was God’s way, McGovern said, of addressing the war Republicans have waged on women. There was more applause.
McGovern reminisced about days when Democrats went door to door in Johnson County, which encompasses Greenwood and Franklin, Ind., talking to voters, stopping by people’s homes, watching children so parents could make it to the polls.
It isn’t merely the times that have changed, McGovern said.
“It’s us,” she said. “Somewhere along the way we became convinced a Democrat couldn’t win in Johnson County.
“Let’s turn back the clock.”
In November, Yoder, a Bloomington resident and associate director of professional development at the Kelley School of Business, will face Rep. Todd Young, R-9th District, who won the seat in 2010 against Democrat incumbent Baron Hill.
The buffet dinner began. Yoder rushed to the back, near the silver platters of food, to greet the diners as they loaded their plates with rice and chicken. She gave them smiles and hugs, and she left the line occasionally to greet tables, kneeling beside chairs and nodding as she listened.
Yoder’s focus is education. She said she’s talked to district residents who believe the Affordable Care Act will prevent them care as they age or become ill.
“It’s just not true,” she said.
She was asked Thursday how she, a Bloomington resident, could represent the people an hour north in Greenwood. She said she tried to explain how the district system works.
Yoder spoke after dinner, and her sentiment reflected McGovern’s comments about the war on women.
Though has never run for office, Yoder said she thought often about the political system, discussing her thoughts with husband Josh Perry, who teaches business law
and ethics at IU.
“Specifically, I said to Josh, ‘Where are the strong women? I know they’re out there, because I see them every day. But where are they in our political system?’”
She talked with her hands, jerking them as she finished a sentence or moving them in slow circles as she explained key points.
She mentioned her past, discussing the gas station her parents owned that they eventually had to sell. She told the audience she relied on part-time jobs and her selection as Miss Indiana in 1992 to take her to college. She admitted that, as she considered the political system, she drifted toward cynicism.
“I had one night to sleep on it,” she said. “The next day was the filing deadline.”
She decided to run, packing herself and her husband into the family van for a trip to Indianapolis to file the paperwork. She did so with just 30 minutes to spare.
She moved from her past into her opinions about her opponent. She discussed his voting record and his support of the Paul Ryan budget, which she said would reopen the Medicare hole. She said Young sponsored the bill Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., has recently taken heat for that categorizes cases of rape.
Her remarks were met with angry mutters and still more applause.
“I am out there working hard every day to spread a message of hope,” Yoder said, her voice growing louder as she continued. “I am out there every day saying we can do better. Things don’t have to be broken.”