Sabrina Haake

Sabrina Haake, of Gary, is running for the Democratic nomination to represent Northwest Indiana in Congress.

GARY — An environment and animal rights advocate from Gary is entering the contest to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, in Congress.

Sabrina Haake last week filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to run in the Democratic primary for the 1st House District, which includes all of Lake and Porter counties and western LaPorte County.

She said her goal, if elected, is the wholesale transformation of Northwest Indiana's economy by transitioning to 100% renewable, carbon-free energy; a modernized electric grid; expanded industrial use of solar and wind farms; and investments in bioconversion and zero emission technology.

"Our climate is in a state of emergency, and we don't have time to waste," Haake said.

She believes the Region could set an example for the rest of Indiana by developing a solar-powered bike path between Chicago and Michigan City that would have the added benefits of growing the 1st District's economy and promoting its biodiversity.

Haake also wants to redevelop unused buildings into vertical or hydroponic farms, which she said will create new, sustainable jobs and bolster development in areas desperate for it.

"All three counties in our region have at least one large, underutilized building that could be converted into a profitable hydroponic farm," she said.

Haake, 56, is an attorney and Gary real estate investor who also has rescued some 200 abused or neglected dogs over the past 20 years.

She's the founder of the Gary Animal Welfare Coalition that provides food and resources to pet owners in need.

"I practice law to pay for my real estate and rescue habit," she quipped.

But Haake is entirely serious about her congressional bid, which she said stems not just from her activism but from a deep concern that American democracy is "under serious attack" by dangerous special interests.

To combat that, Haake favors campaign spending and congressional term limits, stronger criminal penalties for interfering in elections, and eliminating the electoral college so each vote for president counts equally in every state in the country.

"I love our democracy deeply, and we're seeing now that it is also fragile," Haake said. "Like no other time before in our nation's very troubled history, our democracy, and our Constitution, are in need of a fierce advocate."

Haake's congressional campaign is her first run for elected office, though she helped Gary Mayor-elect Jerome Prince's 2019 campaign and serves as a senior adviser to his transition team.

She's also the first openly LGBT candidate in the 1st District race that includes Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., North Township Trustee Frank J. Mrvan, Valparaiso lawyer Jim Harper, and state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster.

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