Lynn Coleman to challenge Jackie Walorski for 2nd District seat

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South Bend TribuneLYNN C. COLEMAN
By Jeff Parrott
12/16/15

Democrat Lynn Coleman, a retired South Bend police officer and former assistant to Mayor Stephen Luecke, will challenge Republican incumbent Jackie Walorski for the 2nd District congressional seat, party leaders confirmed Tuesday.

St. Joseph County Democratic Party Chair Jason Critchlow said he’s confident that Coleman can fare better across the geographically sprawling district than Joe Bock, the Democrat who Walorski handily defeated in 2014.

“He’s an average guy,” Critchlow said. “He has worked his entire life as a police officer and raised a family in this community. As far as working class residents go, nobody knows it better.”

Critchlow said Walorski, seeking her third term, is “completely out of touch with working class Hoosiers. She’s never raised a family, she doesn’t know what it’s like. Lynn does. He’s walked it.”

Coleman was unavailable for comment Tuesday. Democratic party leaders, including U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and state party chair John Zody had planned to attend a campaign announcement press conference on Friday at the Charles Martin Center, but later Tuesday cancelled it because the U.S. Senate will be in session, Critchlow said.

Critchlow said he approached Coleman about running earlier this year, and Coleman has traveled to Washington to meet with representatives of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He said the meeting went well, but the DCCC hasn’t yet committed any funds to Coleman’s campaign.

The DCCC typically waits until late summer or early fall before casting its lot with Democrats deemed to be in races that are competitive enough.

Coleman has hired political fundraiser Timothy Wagner, an Elkhart native and young party operative. Wagner, when contacted for comment Tuesday, said he couldn’t talk because he was “about to jump on a call,” and he said he wasn’t sure if Coleman would comment later Tuesday.

Wagner worked as a field organizer for the Indiana Democratic Party in 2012, was a finance associate/office manager for the Montana Democratic Party from May to August of last year, then was field director for the West Virginia Democratic Party from August to November 2014, according to his LinkedIn page.

From February to July of this year, Wagner was finance director for Democrat Ravi Patel’s congressional campaign in Iowa, but Patel withdrew from the race in late June, citing his desire for party unity in a crowded primary field.

Coleman has never run for elected office. He had been chief of detectives at the SBPD in August 1997 when then-mayor Luecke named him his administrative assistant for youth issues. In that role, Coleman coordinated many of the city’s youth-oriented programs, including the South Bend Community School Corp.’s security officers and Drug Awareness Resistance Education, or DARE programs.

He also worked with Police Youth Recreation programs, Crime Stoppers and the Crime Prevention Bureau, focusing on community-oriented policing.

Coleman retired from the force in April 2000 after 22 years of service, and began working full time as Luecke’s assistant. Since Luecke left office in 2011, Coleman has held a variety of community roles, currently serving on the South Bend Group Violence Intervention, as community trauma liaison for Memorial Hospital.

Luecke said he was “excited” about Coleman’s candidacy.

“He’s just a quality person,” Luecke said. “His heart for our community, his heart for children, for education, for families, was always at the forefront. He can really be an important voice for finding ways to reduce some of the violence we see across the country, and be a sane and sensible advocate for security issues across the country.”

An attempt to reach Walorski for comment Tuesday was unsuccessful.

Walorski beat Bock, a University of Notre Dame professor at the time, by 21 points in the 2014 election. The 2nd District has been more Republican-friendly since the GOP redrew it following the 2010 Census. Luecke acknowledged that Coleman will be strong in South Bend, but he said he believes voters in rural and suburban areas will embrace him also.

“If people take the time to get to know Lynn and his heart for the people of our district, they’ll see his integrity and his commitment to making our community successful,” Luecke said. “I think he should be able to draw in voters across the district.”

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