INDIANAPOLIS | After shaking hundreds of hands at the Lake County Fair last week, Republican Congressional candidate Joel Phelps knows for sure he's not the only region resident craving change in Washington, D.C.
"I can't tell you how many people are just mad," Phelps said. "They feel like it doesn't matter what we say, it doesn't matter what we do, they're not going to listen."
Phelps, a Portage businessman and industrial engineer, is hoping Northwest Indiana voters will carry that anger with them to the ballot box on Nov. 6 and vote out U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville. Visclosky has represented the region in Congress since 1985.
"People understand when they meet me that I'm sincere and I'm in this because I want to do something, not because I want to be something," Phelps said. "I don't want to make a career out of it, I want to somehow try to pass off a version of America that's the same or better than what I inherited."
So far this month, Republican volunteers at a St. John call center have reached out to more than 10,000 likely voters that identify as independent or only marginally connected to a political party. Phelps said half of those voters with a preference in the Congressional race said they plan to vote for him.
Phelps' campaign manager Steve Wolff said he was "encouraged and frankly surprised" by the responses that "show us very much within striking distance."
"This race is winnable and Republicans, Democrats and independents alike are tired of career politicians like Pete Visclosky," Wolff said.
A spokeswoman for the Visclosky campaign did not respond to a request for comment. As of June 30, Visclosky had a huge campaign cash advantage with $474,161 in the bank compared to Phelps' $5,020.
The 1st Congressional District, which includes all of Lake, Porter and the western and lakefront areas of LaPorte County, is perhaps the most Democratic district in Indiana. It has had a Democratic congressman since 1931.