- Susan Brooks, Republican candidate for U.S. Congress in Indiana's Fifth Congressional District.
Editor's Note: We visited Candidate Brooks July 12 at her campaign headquarters near North Meridian Street and I-465.
NUVO: To you what defines a good, effective congressperson?
Brooks: I think a good effective congressperson, and you know, I'm going to start using the word congresswoman, cause it's not a term that's been used that often in Indiana is a person who truly tries to learn what is most important, what are the most important issues in their District, and Districts are different, and tries to truly listen to the constituents and then solve the problems that the constituents might have with the federal government, and I think that is a key part of being a member of congress that isn't really discussed that much we talk about the issues all the time, which are very important, but one of the most important things that I think an effective member of Congress does is resolves constituents' issues that they might have with the different federal agencies. And I also think that a member of Congress is an advocate for that District and tries to take the pulse of what the majority of the people in that District, how they feel about different issues and then be an advocate for their positions in Congress. You know, the Fifth District of Indiana is actually, has a lot of different employment type of sectors that are important and trying to make sure I understand what those sectors are and how I can best serve the District with my primary goal and, you know, different members are going to have different goals but I think a top goal of a lot of members is trying to get people back to work, and so what are the different things I could do to try to break down the barriers to increase employment, not just in the 5th District, but in thecountry as a whole. So I think members of Congress also need to beÉ we are government employees, we are employed by the people of the District, and so we need to make sure that the people of the District are pleased with our representation and that we stay in touch with and in tune with what they need and want
NUVO: Now I feel like I should change all these questions instead of what do you feel to what does your District feel.
Brooks: That's okay. I can ... because I do think that that's something that everybody always is asking me about how I feel about things. But I have throughout my career been an advocate for, whether it's organizations or people as an attorney. You may or may not know I was a criminal defense attorney for 13 years, you know, but I've also been the top attorney for the federal government, and so I, depending on what role you are on what role I am in, I am an advocate on behalf of that client, on behalf of that constituent, and I view that very much in my role as a member of Congress is that I would be an advocate for the District. Even more so than how I feel about something its really understanding my District and understanding what I think the District wants and what's in the best interest of the District whether it's in my own best interest or not. Does that make sense?
NUVO: It make great sense. When you look at the predecessor, Representative Burton, how are you assessing his strengths and weaknesses in terms of his leadership style and what he accomplished?
Brooks: I will say that one thing I have learned, particularly in this run for Congress in the last year, and I did jump in before he announced he was retiring, but I have been told many stories about the strength of his constituent services. And that he did help a lot of individual people and families and businesses with issues they were having with the federal government. I don't believe that many people talk about those things very much because usually they are personal to that family or business but I have certainly learned that that was one of his strengths and that I would say that many people in the Fifth District have often said to me that continue to support Dan Burton because he voted the way they wanted him to vote.I take that to mean he was representing the Fifth District in the way his constituents in the Fifth wanted him to represent the Fifth. I have also, though, learned that a number of people have felt that length of time that Congressman Burton was there was too long, not just for Congressman Burton, for many members of Congress and that people have been very ready for a change in leadership and a change in representation, and so throughout the Fifth District, overwhelmingly the groups I talk to are ready for discussion about term limits.
NUVO: And that's fair. I think that's what I've been hearing out there, too.
Brooks: And I say a discussion about it because I never advocated a certain number or have not said that I believe there is a certain number because I think that we haven't had much of a discussion of it in the country. But this cycle, I think there's more of a discussion. If I didn't bring it up in my discussion in my, what are called, meet and greets that we had then it was brought up by someone in whatever audience I was addressing. But I usually brought it up and usually have asked the question without naming the number of terms, "How many of you are interested in a serious discussion on term limits?" and almost 90% to 100% of the crowd would raise their hands.
NUVO: So in every job interview you'll probably be asked what are your strengths and weaknesses. How would you address those weaknesses from the strengths?
Brooks: Well, good question. I would say that my strengths for this position are that I am an effective listener. I also am someone that has a breadth of experience, a diverse set of experiences that I think would serve the Fifth District well. As a partner in a small law firm, I was a small business owner. A lot of people don't think of it that way, but that is what you are when you have seven or eight employees, you're a small business owner. And I was. I helped as a deputy mayor run our state's largest city and learned about issues affecting our local government and local communities and how federal government affects those local communities.
And also, though, during that (I) time helped bring very diverse groups of people together to work on, at the time, our country's violence problem, our city's violence problem. And that's what I focused on as deputy mayor was gun violence and our homicide rate, domestic violence, child health and welfare issues. That's what I worked on for two years in the late 90s.
My time as U.S. attorney from '01-'07 was very focused on national security issues, federal crime issues, but then the other thing that we focused on that most people don't realize is I led an office that represented the United States in civil matters so all of the federal agencies, we were their lawyers. So we were lawyers for the Postal Service or the lawyers for the veteran's association hospital or the lawyers for federal highway or national parks and so I have experience in federal government.
And then finally, the reason I ran, quite frankly is my now five years at Ivy Tech college working with the unemployed and the underemployed and trying to work to attract, to help being a part of attracting business to Indiana and getting people back to work. I've also been the lawyer for that institution.
So I think that higher education, workforce development, economic development, national security issue, federal justice issues, local government issues small business: I hope that I have a breadth of experience that could add a common sense practical approach to solving problems, not theoretical, pie-in-the-sky ideas, very practical common sense problem solving skills.
NUVO: Certainly breadth of experience and depth. What about weakness, though?
Brooks: I think, with respect to a weakness, I have in running for Congress I have not served as a legislator, so I have a lot to learn in respect to how things get done in Congress. I never interned or never worked for a legislative body. I worked with a legislative body when I was deputy mayor — we worked with the city council. But I view that as a weakness and I will have to have a number of folks that I rely upon to help me learn how to be most effective in getting things done. I think another weakness that I have had is at times over-committing, and over-committing my time to various organizations and causes and I will need to focus a bit more as a member of congress.
NUVO: I'm sure that will be tough. Why? Why do you want to do this?
Brooks: Two reasons. A couple of things happened around the time that I was approached about running. One was the national debt discussion last spring was at a feverish pitch. We were hearing about a way that I had never heard about it before, and I had a daughter going into her senior year in college, a son going into his senior year in high school and I began to realize what a mess my generation was leaving for the next generation, leaving to them, and learning that so many kids coming out of college were not getting jobs. But not only the kids coming out of college, because I had worked at Ivy Tech for the four years where we experienced explosive growth, I was walking into work every day with unemployed Hoosiers, unemployed adults, older people who some who had their Bachelor's degrees but were coming back, others who knew they needed to come back but yet I was talking to a lot of employers who weren't ramping up hiring. And so while we have all these people in higher education I wouldn't say that job creation rate is keeping pace with the number of people coming out who need jobs, and it is a huge problem. I think it's a huge mistake we are making for people who are trying to improve their skills and the young people coming out of college. And then when the super committee was appointed and a small group of representatives could not sit down and figure out how to come up with some solutions to our country's debt I really felt that there wereÉthe members of congress weren't listening to the American people and maybe didn't have the skills to try to bring people together and figure out some really tough problems, and I felt that maybe I could be a different kind of representative and do that.
NUVO: How will you negotiate the current partisan gridlock that have stymied cooperation and conversation?
Brooks: Well, that came up a lot as I met with people in the Fifth District during my race in the primary. And I either brought it up or it came up on its own, that they were looking for a representative that was willing to do that and so I said that very intentionally I think that I will try to create relationships and get to know people within my own party and with members of the other party who, I believe we don't agree on things, try and figure out, not move away from the people that we might not see eye to eye on topics, but actually try and develop a relationship with them and because I think when you get to know people begin to work with them as I have in a lot of different jobs, you can usually find ways to work through things. I understand from talking to current members of Congress that doesn't happen right now. It is very polarized. There isn't a lot of interaction, whether it's social or outside of the halls of congress or actually in the chambers. There isn't much interaction between the parties. It's not how it used to be in the past when there used to be a lot more whether it was meeting folks for breakfast, or going to dinner, or going out for a drink or you know socializing. And while that seems simple and maybe even it might sound a little shallow, I really do believe that when people get to know each other on a more personal basis, rather than just the labels that people are attaching to each other that we should be able to work through some of these differences, and so I think finding people on the committees I'll be assigned to reaching out to those folks, members of the committee and starting to get to know them and work with them and try to figure out on a one to one basis, probably not in big groups, probably much more individually, and try and figure out how we can find some like-minded agreements on some issues. Maybe not on all the big things at once. I think it's going to have to work on it small issue by small issue.
NUVO: I'm going to feel bad asking about issues now, but they're just general ... like in what ways can Congress, if any, can best stimulate greater economic growth and job creation?
Brooks: With respect to job creation, we need to realize we are in a global competition for jobs. And I've seen that at my work at Ivy Tech. You know companies that we either work with or companies that I worked with the state when they are making decisions where to create jobs, they're looking at the business environment, the tax environment, the workforce availability, and we need to make sure that we have a much more favorable tax environment, which I believe that we do not have the most favorable tax environment in the world.
NUVO: Can we pause on that one? So on the one hand, we have a Grover Norquist and on the other hand we have this idea of taxation. What to you represents intelligent tax reform?
Brooks: Well, I think that intelligent tax reform would require us to make our tax code much simpler.
NUVO: Like a flat tax?
Brooks: Well, I think that I probably am interested in fewer rates. I wouldn't say a flat tax per se, but yet I think we need to have a discussion about all of the different options. I believe fewer rates, fewer loopholes, fewer credits, fewer deductions. We need to simplify our tax code. I think we absolutely need to lower our corporate tax rate because we now have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. We were second to Japan, and Japan has now lowered lower than us. We now have the highest, so when multinational companies and they don't all have to be huge companies. They can be smaller companies here that just do business around the world. When they're thinking about expanding, they're going to expand where they have lower taxes. And we now have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. We also have an inheritance tax. A lot of small businesses are family owned businesses and so we are impeding their growth, because they are penalized greatly when they want to try and pass that business down to other family members. Often they have to sell the business, because they can't afford to pay the state taxes so I think there are a number of things we have to do better with respect to tax reform. We absolutely have too many regulations and I hear it from the agricultural community, from the life sciences community, from the manufacturing community, from the finance community, from the health care community. We have so many regulations that people now have to create jobs to comply with the regulations, not to actually do the actual work that their sector is trying to.
NUVO: Isn't that job creation?
B It's just wrong. That's wrong! That there's more in compliance than there is in the actual work that's being done, the people that are trying to serve. So I think regulations have gotten out of control. Finally, we do have a serious issue with respect to our work skill level in this country. There are many other countries that are doing better than we are with respect to our education system, which then feeds right into our work force readiness system.
NUVO: I'll skip ahead because this question is coming up. We might as well do it right now. How do you think federal educational policy has affected Indiana's educational landscape and how do you think that should change, if at all?
Brooks: I do believe that the federal government's role is to make sure the states and local entities understand we're in a global competition for jobs and should educate and set priorities that really allow the states and local governments. I am much more in favor of education, for specifically for it to be much more state and locally controlled. But they need to understand that we are in the global competition for jobs.
I am in favor of offering as many educational possibilities as possible for learners. Learners learn in all ways. From young ages to all of the older people that I've seen and worked with at Ivy Tech and we need to make as many different learning opportunities available. I think the government's role in education should also be probably more focused on research and development and we should be a country that is continuing to innovate and create and federal government should be rewarding that innovation and creation and so in order for this country to continue to be the best that we can be, in whether it's in healthcare or in manufacturing or in agriculture.
Federal government should be pushing our states by rewarding research, innovation, education attainment, but also recognizing that not everyone in this country is going to have master's degrees and that there are all different levels of education, from certifications that can have meaning in the workplace and should have meaning in the workplace to associates degrees that could have more meaning in the workplace to Bachelors degrees, but I am one that also believes we have to continue to emphasize to young people the importance of their high school diploma and of GED's. We have far too high of a drop out rate in this country and in our state and I think it's a very serious problem when we're competing with countries like India and China that are putting such huge emphasis on education. We're going to lose that competition for jobs if we don't have a very educated work force. But all, when I say educated, it's all levels and types of education.
NUVO: okay, switching gears now, what do you see as the most serious environmental issue facing the state?
Brooks: Environmental, with respect to actually the environment?
NUVO: Air and water ...
Brooks: Good question ...
NUVO: ... or climate.
Brooks: When I think of, right now sitting here today ... I mean, the drought that we're experiencing is very serious issue and so depending on when this is published, here we are sitting July 12th and we are experiencing a drought that Indiana is not accustomed to ... Something we as Hoosiers often don't think about conservation the way we should think about conservation, and so I am always very pleased to see programs that focus on conservation of all types as well as recycling and sustainability. I was really pleased to see and was a little bit surprised because I don't think it's gotten the attention that it deserves, and I don't know the numbers, but I was pleased to see that Governor Daniels had actually set aside more land for designation. I'm trying to recall if it's wetlands or protected lands
There have been a huge number of things that I read not too terribly long ago that I was pleasantly surprised about because they hadn't been reported very much. I am a trail rider and so I appreciate our state parks and forests and our national parks and forests and also have grown up on a lake in northern Indiana and want to make sure that our water quality is outstanding and I know that we have had water quality issues around the state and so I certainly think that that's something we need to make sure we are protecting.
NUVO: How concerned are you, if at all, with manmade greenhouse gases?
Brooks: Well, it is probably not a topic I have studied, and one of the things that I just shared with a Farm Bureau group is that one of the toughest challenges when you are running for Congress are the numbers of issues that you need to become more familiar with, and I will just share with you that is an issue and certainly some other issues with respect to the environment that I need to become more familiar with.
NUVO: To be fair to you, and going back to what you said at the beginning, I'm thinking about the difference between a personal understanding on an issue and also what you're hearing from your constituency and I wonder how many Fifth District people are reading this saying, "Miss Brooks, I'm really concerned about this" and I would hazard a guess not very many.
Brooks: It's interesting because some of the issues that actually haven't come up a lot on the campaign trail during this last year have been issues with the environment, also issues with national security. I was one of the only candidates that brought up issues about national security on a regular basis and I think that's because we're 10 years, we're now more than 10 years, we are 11 years away from 9/11 and people, it's not front of mind anymore. I think we're probably now more concerned about greenhouse gases, about issues with respect to droughts, about issues with respect to heat because it's front and center right now.
NUVO: Let's switch again and you can expand this to be a more national security question if you think that's appropriate, I just wanted to ask about your sense of our approach to foreign policy at this point. You know, we've got some wars that are sort of wrapping up, I guess. Where does that stand to you? How would you like to see that change or ...
Brooks: No, I understand what you're saying. I think foreign policy is critically important and we probably are at one of the more dangerous times in the world right now. I am very concerned about Iran's desire and willingness to have a nuclear weapon and with the government that is in power I think that is of critical urgent importance to this country not only first and foremost because of their hatred of Israel but also just the danger that it will cause the entire Middle East and some of their allies in the world, and I think we shouldn't underestimate that if Iran is able to secure nuclear capabilities that they could even attack the United States and so I think that is of grave concern.
I also think that North Korea is another country that causes this country grave concern, and really just the turmoil throughout the Mid East right now and with what's happening in Syria and with Egypt and the, what is happening in the middle East is a grave concern as we have different regimes and different governments come into power.
It's a very dangerous time and that's not even touching on Iraq and Afghanistan, which are still in significant turmoil, and so I believe that we have to be a country that maintains and provides the resources for national security, for intelligence services, for our military, we must continue to have a strong military, and we have to be viewed as the strongest military in the world because we want to ensure that people do not want to do our country harm and our citizens around the world, so I, having come into office one month after 9/11 and learned a lot more than what average Americans know, there are people in this country and abroad who want to do us harm and we need to stay vigilant, we need to make sure our country is very strong and has the intelligence that we need to keep our country safe. I don't believe that the current administration is keeping this country in that position of strength, and believe that we can and should be doing more.
NUVO: Related issue, the veterans, when you go out and talk to them or they come and talk to you, are they telling you anything that you feel isn't incumbent to take to congress and say these people need something done about this?
Brooks: With respect to how our veterans are being treated, yes. Yes. It actually is something, again, it is one of those issues that I want to learn more about and want to be a strong advocate on behalf of veterans in Washington D.C. That's one of those constituent services that I mentioned early on I think is so important because I do believe the veterans do turn to their members of Congress with a lot of regularity about their issues and it will be a very important position in a constituent services office, and there is a veteran's hospital in the District up in Marion so in Grant County there is a veteran's hospital. I have been told, although I don't know the numbers right now, the Fifth District in particular has a huge number of veterans of all ages in the District. Probably one of the largest concentrations of veterans in the state happens to be in the Fifth District and when I was U.S. attorney, and I on occasion visited the Veterans Administration Hospital I saw firsthand that we don't probably provide the V.A hospitals the resources they need to insure that all of the patients and the veterans who need their care get what they need in a timely manner. I've been told that the length of time that it takes for people to get services, not once they get to a hospital, but get to approval to seek services is far too long, and that the appeals process by theVeteran's Administration is far too long, months too long, not talking weeks(40:00) we're talking it's taking months longer than it used to take for veterans to get services and that'sÉI just think that's wrong for what they and their families have given this country, I do believe veterans should be a top priority. And so my guess is that the processes aren't good, it could be thatÉ my guess is that the processesare not in place it's not that the people who work at the veteran's administration aren't working as hard as they can but my guess is is that the processes and resources aren't there.
NUVO: This is the last special interest group I'm going to throw at you, but farmers. Do you have any special plans for them? You mention that they talk about over regulation. Is there anything else that you think in terms of farm policy discussion we could bring as an Indiana representative to the table?
Brooks: Well, the timing is interesting because I just went before the Farm Bureau Board, the Farm Bureau PAC ... a nd I'm pleased to say that I did get their endorsement.
Brooks: Thank you and I was thrilled to get their endorsement and so I do plan on sitting down with them again. I've talked with different local farming groups in the different counties and, in fact, at that evening I wanted to start asking them questions and I realized that wasn't the forum to do that and so I'm going back and meeting with them as a group. It was their opportunity to ask just me questions.
I started to ask them questions and then I realized that was not, it wasn't the setting for it, I definitely plan on meeting with them on a regular basis and forming, and I shared with them, in a forming a round table discussion where I learn what are the most important issues to them, and it typically has to do with regulations, whether it is EPA regulations or it's OSHA regulations. They just recently defeated a labor regulation and you may or may not be aware that was going to preclude them from allowing their young family members from participating in traditional farming activitie.
I don't believe it is the government's role to tell a parent farmer when they believe it is old enough for their own child to learn how to participate in different farming activities. I believe that individuals and families in that industry know best. Of course they want to protect their own children. Of course safety is of critical importance in the farming community. And so I do think and they have talked about the number of regulations that are really causing problems for farmers but also the inheritance tax, got a state tax, is a huge problem for the family farm and I think it is part of why we are losing family farms and they also care very much about trade. Because farmers feed not only people in this country, they feed the world, and so they want to make sure that we have a lot of open trade agreements with countries to make sure that their products get transported around the world.
NUVO: Like Cuba.
Brooks: Yes. I mean, they actually want to make sure — I didn't talk I didn't talk with them specifically about Cuba, for instance — but they do want to make sure that we are having a lot of open, free-trade agreements with a lot of countries so that we can take our products to markets around the world. So there are much more, they have a much more global focus than I think most people think the farmers do.But also in this district, agribusiness in a big sense is very important. Companies like: Beck Seeds, is one of the world's largest seed distributor and seed innovator; Wallace Grain; JBS in Sheridan (which) is an international company; Dow Agro. We have some world-class agribusinesses. Redgold Tomatoes ... so we have some very important agribusiness besides the family farms and the large agricultural farms
It's of critical importance to the Fifth District. I was really excited to get their endorsement.
NUVO: That's got to feel good.
Brooks: Yeah, it was. I'm trying to think if there are other absolutely hot, hot issues. Federal crop insurance.
NUVO: That's huge right now.
Brooks: In the Farm Bill, oddly that did not come up. The farm-bill discussion did not come up that night. They are, in Indiana, in the Fifth District, they are interested not in direct payments to farmers to plant or not to plant and to grow or not to grow. They would much rather have a free-market system in place determining the prices of their products, but they are very interested in preserving a crop -insurance program that insures that when we do have natural disasters and other emergencies that they have a backup for payment for the crops, so that is kind of the cornerstone of their hope for the Farm Bill. But that'sÉthe farm bill is due to expire this year and it will be interesting to see if Congress can get it done.
NUVO: This is more broad-based: How do you define Hoosier when people ask outside this state. What is a Hoosier to you?
Brooks: That's a good question. I haven't been asked that question before. What is a Hoosier? I think Hoosiers are people who care about each other and to step up and help each other. We are the epitome of volunteerism, I think, in the country. We volunteer whether it is, you know, disasters in communities, whether it is putting on a Super Bowl and other not just sporting events here, whether it is in a volunteering for a boy scout or girl scout troop, whether it is volunteering in a church, volunteering at school, volunteering through a church, I think that you're hard pressed to find many Hoosiers who don't volunteer in some ways and I'm very proud of that. But I also think that Hoosiers are people who respect and understand and are willing to have a discussion about what a diverse state we are. We have a long way to go in, I think having an agreement on a lot of issues around diversity, but yet I believe we are a state that is willing to have the discussions and are willing to take positions and I like to think that we are people that also respect diverse opinions about ideas and how to get things done. I believe Hoosiers are very practical and are very common sense oriented. I believe most Hoosiers, but I am worried about this, are very hard working and are industrious, ethical people.
NUVO: What are you worried about?
Brooks: I am worried and I talked about his on the campaign trail that because of some of our federal policies like allowing people to ... giving people 99 weeks of unemployment. I believe it's too much and I believe that government has gone too far with some of its policies in providing for people. Without encouraging people or requiring people — for instance, with respect to unemployment — requiring them to go back and improve their skills or get better education or requiring them to volunteer or requiring them to give back. I actually have talked to employers who said that they would try to call some employees back who would say call me in week 97. Call me in week 94, okay. You know, I'm just not ready yet.
I just spoke with the Hamilton County Trustees, those are the people who issue poor relief and township assistance. They actually shared with me that, and I was very sad to hear this, that word has gotten out in the Midwest that Hamilton County, in particular, has a lot of resources and so we are now in Hamilton County attracting people from Chicago, Detroit, and other large urban areas in the Midwest to Hamilton County because they can get assistance, okay. I just learned that yesterday. And so people are moving into Central Indiana, from other states even. That tells me that we don't have enough checks in our system to prevent fraud and abuse and waste and we aren't requiring enough of people who are getting whether it is food stamps or unemployment for the length of time, encouraging them to go out and to get back to work.
NUVO: To what extent do you feel government should provide a social safety net for the least fortunate among us?
Brooks: I absolutely believe in a safety net, so I don't want to be giving the impression that I don't believe in a safety net. I do believe in a safety net for that family that has gotten laid off and that has kids and that don't have savings, and so many families are like that right now, and I do believe that we should provide a period of time of unemployment for them, but we also need to be educating them that they can't and shouldn't be turning down jobs just because they didn't make the same rate of pay they got laid off from. So many people believe they are going to be called back, so they wait it out and see if they're going to get called back. I've seen this through my work at Ivy Tech and from talking to employers, so I think that we do need to have systems in place that are requiring people to go back and improve their skills. I can't tell you how many adults that we worked with that have no computer skills. They've gotten laid off from jobs that they've had for many years and they now are in a place out looking for a job and we are teaching them to type, or we are teaching them how to use a computer for the first time, okay. We have to continue to push and encourage people to improve their skills so that they will be marketable for the jobs that Indiana's bringing in. Companies bring in equipment (and) people don't have the skills to learn how to operate high-tech equipment, so we have employers, a lot of employers, who want to compete and are trying to compete, but they are telling us that people don't have the skills.
And so we need to be, I think, always encouraging pushing, people to try to improve themselves whenever they're on public assistance to the extent that they can and are able to, but certainly there are folks, particularly the disabled and people that have special needs that we need to make sure that we are helping those folks and providing them the resources they need. A lot of special-needs people want to try and find jobs and things they can do and trying to match up what type of capabilities people with special needs do have with some jobs, so it is connecting what those opportunities might be and I think that's a great role for government and a great role for non-profits to work together to try to find opportunities for people, particularly with special needs.
NUVO: Because you brought up the diversity issue now I have to, what do you think the gay people make of our Hoosierdom these days?
Brooks: Marriage, I do believe, is a state issue . . . I believe that those issues are something that people need to advocate their local city councilors and their state legislators. I learned this as U.S. attorney and working in the federal government, the states in this country are so different. That's a good thing, I think, for states to be different. Federal government shouldn't try to make all of our states all the same and so I believe that all people should be treated equally, I believe in the Constitution, and I do not believe people should be discriminated against.
NUVO: On a broader plane, what books or thinkers have most influenced the development of your political philosophy?
Brooks: Well, because I've never run for office, it's new for me to be even thinking about political philosophy, okay. Because I am a very practical, common sense person, I would not say that I have . . . I have not spent a huge amount of time, although I did back in college when I was a political science major . . .
NUVO: And a law student . . .
Brooks: And a law student, but even as a law student I wouldn't say it was political philosophy. Even in law school, you know in law school, and maybe it's changed over time, but again I always was very focused on the practical common sense approach to solving people's problems, okay, really. Now I will say that I very much enjoyed Mitch Daniels' book Keeping Our Republic. I found it a great read. I also, because I worked for Steve Goldsmith, he wrote a book around the time that I was in the mayor's office . . . the 21st Century City. It had a lot of stories about what we've done in Indianapolis, and it had to do with things like public-private partnerships. It had to do with working with neighborhood groups and faith-based groups and letting them work closely with government to solve their neighborhood problems and solve our family's problems really pushing that to neighborhoods and faith-based groups.
NUVO: Back to that practical thing.
NUVO: Sorry to cut you off but I just I'm on the fence now, so I've got to get these last two in: What question do you wish that I'd ask and what would your answer be?
Brooks: I don't know that there are any questions you haven't asked. One thing that I am very worried about and it was actually reported in The Star this morning by a 17-year-old young reporter ... I am very worried about apathy among young people in our democracy and the number of young people who are not voting, the number of young people who have no clue who their political leaders are, the number of young people, I mean high school, I mean probably, you know, 15-30 year olds.
In many ways I am concerned about that and so we had a youth event last night where . . . because I am the mom of a 19- and a 22-year-old and I've really asked them . . . They were not involved before either in any Young Republican organization and most of their friends weren't in any political organization, Young Democrats, Young Republicans or any real activist groups. Now they volunteer and they do, I think, the beauty of this age group is they do a lot of volunteering, but it hasn't been translating into political action.
There might be small groups of them that are, but to even ask kids what they care about, what are they worried about, they don't know. They really haven't paid attention to the debt problem. They only pay attention to the unemployment problem when it's kind of effecting them or one of their family members. They really don't seem to have many strong views on a lot of things and they are not voting.
So, we're working hard. Last January we had a youth event where my kids invited through Facebook their friends, we encouraged people to come out. We actually had, and it was over Christmas break for college kids, we had about 75 kids show up. I was pumped, I was excited that that many kids (came).
I said "Look, you may not know if you're Republican or if you're Democrat, but you've got to get involved and you've got to start paying attention and you've got to start asking people really tough questions when you go to the voting booth because the problems that are happening in this country right now are yours! You are going to be paying for a lot more of my healthcare. You are going to be paying for a lot more of my Social Security. You are going to be paying a lot more of my Medicare. And we have to reform these systems or you're going to be working, you're going to be giving a lot more of your money to the government than you want to give."
NUVO: Alright, final question:
Brooks: Your readership hopefully will start paying attention to and start turning out, because I'll tell you what: I've never been involved in political process and almost all political candidates focus on senior citizens for a reason, ok? It's because they vote. Because they understand what their votes mean. Many of them fought in wars and have a deeper appreciation of what a freedom to vote means, and I am afraid that a lot of young people don't, and so phone calls and phone banks aren't focused on young people, a lot of efforts aren't focused on turning out the young people vote because they, for some time now, haven't been showing up.
NUVO: Kind of a downward spiral, feeds on itself . . .
Brooks: One high school wouldn't let the Young Republican Club form because the Young Democratshadn't come forward, ok? Yeah, so it's been very hard for me as a candidate to even figure out how to reach young people and I give my kids and their friends a lot of credit. We had a huge number of young people at the polls, but you know what? That's because I have a 19- and 22-year-old.
NUVO: This is the final one: If you could ask one question of your fellow candidates, and you could change it for a Libertarian or Democrat, what would that be, or what would those be?
Brooks: With congress at an all-time low approval rating what are they going to do to try to restore confidence in Congress? And how can they demonstrate, or what do they plan on doing to demonstrate how we can restore our faith in our government?
That was really good.
Nuvo: Well, thank you so much. It is an honor.