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Hill, Sodrel battle for 9th District House seat

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By Vince Luecke

PERRY COUNTY - In what has become a biannual battle, Democrat Baron Hill and Republican Mike Sodrel are each hoping to claim victory Nov. 4 in the race for Indiana's Ninth Congressional District.

This is the fourth consecutive election in which the two men have faced off. Hill is the incumbent this year, having defeated Sodrel in 2006. The Democrat lost to Sodrel in 2004 after serving three terms.

In visits to Perry County over the past year and through press releases dispatched to Ninth District newspapers, Hill and Sodrel have each offered ideas for kick-starting Indiana's economy, safeguarding jobs and lowering gas prices.

During his visits to the area, Hill has talked about the need for the nation to use energy more efficiently while Sodrel has argued for the nation to boost domestic oil drilling.

During an August town-hall meeting at the Tell City-Perry County Public Library, Hill talked about his support of new technology that will allow coal to be burned with less pollution and touted a bill he authored that increases fuel-economy standards. Another piece of legislation he supported regulates oil speculators Hill said have artificially inflated prices.

Asked about the debate over opening up new areas for oil and natural gas exploration, Hill said he has pushed for oil companies to use land already at their disposal.

During his campaign stops, Sodrel has also pushed for the nation to become energy independent, arguing for expanding offshore drilling and opening land in Alaska to oil exploration. Sodrel visited Alaska earlier this year to highlight the need for the nation to open up a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for exploration.

Sodrel has also talked about the need to encourage innovation in the search for alternative energy sources, including offering cash prizes for major breakthroughs. Saying there is no "silver bullet" to fight high energy prices, Sodrel said he has supported ethanol and bio-diesel but said they are short-term measures because of the impact grain-to-fuel conversions have on food prices.

Property Taxes

Though property-taxes are mostly local and state issues, Hill said high property taxes have been a top concern among southern Indiana residents. He introduced a bill that would allow Americans to deduct a portion of their property taxes from their federal taxes, even for those who don't itemize.

Hill is a member of the Blue Dog Democrats, a group of fiscally conservative Democrats and voted against the financial rescue plan approved by Congress and signed by the president. Hill has said the measure was rushed through Congress too quickly. He voted against the package twice and voiced concern about extra spending the second version contained.

Sodrel's economic platform has resonated with calls for the permanent repeal of the inheritance tax, keeping 2001 tax cuts in place and an overall simplification of the nation's tax code.

Sodrel was a supporter in 2006 of the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act, which he said would have extended alternative minimum tax relief for many Americans.

Economic Growth

Sodrel and Hill have each listed the economy as a major issue facing Ninth District voters. Sodrel said a sound national energy policy will help grow the economy. Hill has pointed to his support of a bill that provided a higher minimum wage and the need to control government spending. Hill has also pointed to the need for a second economic-stimulus bill to help get the economy moving again. He has suggested money be devoted to public-works projects such as roads and bridges that would employ people.

Libertarian Candidate

Perry Countians will see a third name on the ballot for the Ninth District seat. Dr. Eric Schansberg is running for the seat as a Libertarian Party candidate. He is calling for fiscal conservatism in Congress, a stronger U.S. dollar, more domestic drilling for oil and natural gas and an end to energy subsidies. He is also opposed to the war in Iraq and said he is pro-life and against taxpayer money being used for Planned Parenthood. The Libertarian said he stands behind ordinary Americans.

"Both of the major political parties claim to work for the people," Schansberg writes on his Web site. "Instead, they're busy using the power of the government to benefit and pander to special-interest groups, and to ignore key issues while trying to score cheap political points against their opponents.