Young talks about the message of last year’s campaign; also points to opioid crisis as an area where Congress must provide leadership in 2017
WASHINGTON, DC – Newly-elected U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN) appeared before a breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society this past Wednesday morning, delivering remarks not only about his hard-fought victory in the 2016 campaign, but the mood of the electorate and a challenge facing Indiana that he plans to continue working on this year.
“People wanted effective conservative leadership,” Young stated, reflecting on last year’s race. “To put it in my parents’ terms – and my parents are apolitical people – people wanted results. The American people and the people of Indiana deserve answers from government officials, and they deserve solutions and action. And so a consistent theme throughout the campaign on my part – one that I believe differentiated and distinguished me from my opponents – was that I’ve actually gotten things done. And we found that message really resonated.”
Young is a fifth generation Hoosier who was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010. A former Captain in the United States Marines, he served three terms in the House, where he made a name for himself as the author of such measures as the REINS Act, which has been approved by the House and would require any regulation that had an economic impact of $100 million or more to pass Congress and be signed by the President.
When veteran Senator Dan Coats announced in 2015 that he would retire at the end of his term, Young threw his hat into the ring to replace him. According to Young, it was an uphill battle from the start. It was also one that grew even steeper when Democrat Baron Hill dropped out of the race and was replaced by Evan Bayh, the longtime former Senator and Governor of the Hoosier State.
“Evan entered the race with roughly 100 days to go until Election Day,” Young recalled. “He was up by 27 points by some accounts, with a 10-1 cash-on-hand advantage. He had a $10 million war chest. We’d spent almost everything in the primary, assuming that we could build up whatever we needed for the general election. It didn’t look pretty to a whole lot of people, and yet I still had this conviction that we were going to win. Where did that conviction come from? Well, part of it is that I knew that much of his lead stemmed from his name identification. I also knew that, as you looked at the electoral map, we had to win Indiana if we had any chance of keeping the U.S. Senate and maintaining control of the U.S. Supreme Court.
“But that wasn’t enough when you’re running against the most popular Democrat in the State of Indiana in generations. Evan Bayh is more popular than even his father, Birch Bayh. He was viewed as the incumbent, and I was really the outsider in this race. And I thought he did not have a record of effective leadership, let alone effective conservative leadership. I illustrated that his legislative record was thin. His rhetorical record was sweeping. And he had to reach back consistently to his gubernatorial days to identify things that he had accomplished. And even then, there weren’t many positive things to cite. So to his chagrin, I consistently hammered home the message: ‘This guy has not accomplished much. He may have set the right tone, and he may be quite adept at defining problems. But we need solvers – not talkers.’ And, again, that resonated with the people of our home state.”
One problem on which both Hoosiers and all Americans are calling for action, Young noted, is opioid abuse. It is a problem, he added, that he focused on as a member of the House, and one that he plans to continue working on as a member of the Senate.
“It’s tragic,” he stated. “Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky are really ground zero in this opioid crisis. In fact, for those among us who read the New York Times, they have been reporting from Scottsburg, Indiana. Scottsburg is perhaps, per capita, the worst place in the country with respect to opioid abuse. Our office on the House side worked actively with Hal Rogers, who represents much of Appalachia, because the population actually immigrated into Scott County, Indiana. And culturally, there are a lot of similarities: multi-generational poverty, people who turn to drugs on account of depression and boredom and poor career prospects. A lot of those things are related. And so what sort of solutions am I working on?
“Well one, I’m trying to scale up the things that are working. We have not-for-profits on the ground – Goodwill in central Indiana for example, and the Red Cross – who are making a difference decreasing the rate of use and reintegrating people back into society in a statistically significant way. Let’s allow our churches and our not-for-profits, and in some cases our for-profit entities, to go out there and scale up the things that they’re doing to, in most cases, prevent people from even getting involved in this scourge. Secondarily, on the back end we need to make the necessary investments to deal with things like an overloaded foster care system. This has been one of the most tragic dimensions of the opioid crisis in southern Indiana, and actually I’m finding in northern Indiana, as well. Some of these parents become junkies, may be incarcerated, the children end up separated from their parents and go into foster homes for extended stays. And there’s not enough capacity anymore.
“So what do we do? Well, we need to find forever-loving homes for these children in an adoptive setting. I authored a piece of bipartisan legislation that tried to make sure that the records for adoption paperwork are shared in a digital way, as opposed to the old school paper fashion, across state lines. The goal is to enlarge the pool to a national adoption network and provide federal seed money to that effort. We’re trying to attack the problem in other ways, but that’s one example. And we’re going to have to keep working on it.”
The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.