As the hours tick down to Tuesday's elections, Republican Joel Phelps remains optimistic that Northwest Indiana voters will pick him to replace Democrat Pete Visclosky in the U.S. House.
"I think we're going to win, I honestly do. I've got a great feeling about it," Phelps said. "I know we're not supposed to, I know the polls say otherwise, but you can't meet all the positive feedback that we've gotten out there and not be close."
The Portage industrial engineer is making his first bid for elective office. Along the way, he's received support from top Hoosier Republicans including gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence, lieutenant governor candidate Sue Ellspermann, U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind, and U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock.
"People recognize something genuine when they see it," said Phelps, who has spent less than $70,000 on his campaign.
If elected, Phelps said his top goal is to improve the business climate in the district, which includes all of Lake and Porter counties and the western fifth of LaPorte County.
"We have a golden opportunity in Northwest Indiana, but we're wasting it because of a lack of leadership," Phelps said.
He promised to convene a business summit immediately after winning office to start the work of reducing the region's 27 independent economic development boards to one or two -- "So we can respond at the speed of business," Phelps said.
On the other hand, Visclosky, the incumbent from Merrillville, knows a thing or two about improving life in Northwest Indiana, having represented the region in Congress since 1985.
Visclosky created the Marquette Plan redeveloping the Lake Michigan shoreline and lately has focused on revitalizing the region's infrastructure.
He points to $73 million in federal funds he obtained for improvements to reduce delays on local freight railroad tracks as well as his efforts to fund highway construction and expansion of the South Shore Line to Lowell and Valparaiso.
"To the extent that you make that (infrastructure) more efficient, you make our area more attractive for investment," Visclosky said.
Meanwhile, in the 4th District, which includes Newton and Jasper counties, U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Indianapolis, is expected to cruise to re-election over Tara Nelson, a Lafayette Democrat.
Rokita, a Munster native, is seeking a second term in Congress following eight years as Indiana's secretary of state. His goal is to reduce government spending and repeal Obamacare