VALPARAISO — A Valparaiso man who once spent his summer break from Indiana University working for U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, now is hoping to succeed the retiring Region congressman in the U.S. House.
Attorney Jim Harper declared Wednesday in a two minute video posted to Twitter that he's running for the Democratic nomination to "fight for working families" of the 1st House District, which includes all of Lake and Porter counties and western LaPorte County.
Harper says in the video, which shows him driving a Ford through various Northwest Indiana communities, that working for Visclosky allowed him to see firsthand "the value and impact of public service" — and the experience helped set the course of the rest of his life.
"It inspired me to go to law school where I graduated at the top of my class, so that I could become a public defender to fight for a fair criminal justice system," said Harper, a 2008 graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center.
To that end, Harper said he founded a nonprofit law firm representing injured veterans "just trying to get a fair shake from the government and country they served."
Harper, who was the 2018 Democratic nominee for Indiana secretary of state, said his interest in running for Congress stems in part from Visclosky's stated desire that his successor be a person who will "be for something and not against someone."
"Our Region is one of the most diverse and unique in the country, from the shores of Lake Michigan to the Kankakee River, and the cities and towns in between. We are the best of America," Harper said.
"We deserve a congressman who recognizes that our diversity is our strength, and who continues Pete Visclosky's work to improve the lives of every Northwest Indiana family — not just the well-connected few."
If elected, Harper's top two priorities in Congress will be creating good paying jobs by investing in infrastructure and "making sure that every single American has access to quality, affordable health care," he said.
Harper also said that unlike Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., who last week was first to announce a bid for Visclosky's seat, he supports the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
"At this critical time in our country's history, it means holding this president accountable and standing up for our democratic values and the rule of law. Pete has been that kind of congressman, and I will be too," Harper said.
In addition to Harper and McDermott, North Township Trustee Frank J. Mrvan also announced last week he's running to succeed Visclosky, while state Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, opted out of a congressional bid to continue his campaign for Indiana governor.
At the same time, at least a half-dozen more Northwest Indiana Democrats are known or believed to be considering a congressional run.
Filing for the U.S. House race opens Jan. 8 and closes Feb. 7. The primary election is May 5.
Visclosky is the longest serving congressman in state history. He's represented Northwest Indiana in the U.S. House since 1985.