Simpson dismisses the significance of their differences, saying she and Gregg appeal to different constituencies. “That’s a good match,” she said.
In her 28 years in the Senate, Simpson earned a reputation for being forthright. She thinks it’s why voters in her district – which includes the Democrat-heavy, college town of Bloomington – kept sending her back.
“I think being honest with the voters has really been my forte,” Simpson said, adding: “I’ve always been brutally honest, to a fault I think.”
Her first call to public service came as a teenager, listening to President John F. Kennedy’s urgings to young people to get involved in civic life.
“He was the kind of leader who brought young people into the fold,” she said. “He inspired us and caused all of us to aspire to do good.”
In college she volunteered on campaigns and later worked with displaced homemakers – helping women who’d been forced, by divorce or other circumstances, to get training and find work. She saw disparity in the financial credit laws and got interested in credit rights.
“I had this vision that someday I might be in a position that I could change the law,” Simpson said. But she didn’t she herself as a political candidate until others saw it first.
The late Frank McCloskey, a six-term U.S. congressman from Bloomington, encouraged Simpson to run for her first office, that of Monroe County auditor. In that job, she got involved in lobbying state legislators on behalf of county officials around the state.
“That’s when I figured out where the decisions that impact local communities were made,” Simpson said.
If elected, Simpson sees herself advocating for a more open legislative process in which all voices have the chance to be heard.
“The legislative process only works when people listen to each other,” she said. “Compromise and negotiations, which are the basis for the legislative process, have become bad words now.”
• Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.