INDIANAPOLIS — Democratic U.S Senate candidate Baron Hill is walking for votes this summer, saying he’ll go from South Bend to Evansville on foot as a way of campaigning for the state’s open seat.
It’s a tactic the 63-year-old used in a Senate campaign 26 years ago to gain attention, and one he’s returning to as he lags in fundraising behind Republican candidate Rep. Todd Young.
The trek will take about 40 walking days, Hill told The Associated Press on Wednesday, and he anticipates making about 10 to 12 miles each day he walks.
“This is a symbolic way for me to tell people that I’m putting Hoosiers first,” Hill said. “It is a demonstration of my determination to work my fingers to the bone for the people of Indiana, not only in this campaign but in the United States Senate.”
He faces an uphill battle for the seat that is being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Dan Coats. So far, the Indiana race hasn’t been a priority for national Democrats as he seeks to defeat Young, who ousted Hill from Congress in the 2010 tea party wave.
Young frequently touts the fact that he beat Hill once before and vows he can beat him again. He won a contentious GOP primary over Rep. Marlin Stutzman and had raised $3.7 million by mid-April, according to federal campaign reports. Hill was unopposed for the Democratic nomination and had raised slightly less than $1 million by that time.
“Baron Hill ... tried this publicity stunt the first time he ran and lost for the U.S. Senate back in 1990,” Young campaign manager Trevor Foughty said. “If the gimmick didn’t work before he was a rubber stamp for Barack Obama, it certainly won’t work after.”
Hill said he plans on spending the night at the homes of strangers, camping out, as well as occasionally staying in a hotel. He also dismissed those who say the trek amounts to a campaign stunt.
“That’s the way Washington people speak — they have a cynicism about these kind of things,” said Hill, who served five nonconsecutive terms in the U.S. House. “You can’t negate the fact that this is a great way to listen to people.”
Hill was a little-known state legislator from Seymour when he made his first walk across the state in his unsuccessful 1990 Senate bid against Coats.
Hill says the trick is good shoes and drinking lots of water. He says his doctor recently told him he was in good health and — more importantly — his wife signed off on the idea.