During his campaign, U.S. Rep. Peter J. Visclosky repeated a maxim he held close. “To govern, you need to win elections.”
He should know.
As it is for most Visclosky elections, the suspense was over early Tuesday night. Visclosky, a Gary Democrat, trounced GOP challenger Mark Leyva, of Highland, marking the seventh time Leyva has lost to Visclosky.
Visclosky also made local history, winning a record 18th term in Congress. In January, he will eclipse former Democrat U.S. Rep. Ray Madden’s longevity mark when the 116th Congress convenes.
With Democrats winning the U.S. House, it’s likely Visclosky will become chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, which oversees spending of $675 billion.
“With the House changing hands, he’s going to have a significant leadership role in Appropriations,” said James Wieser, chairman of the Lake County Democratic Party.
“Pete always makes sure the committees he’s on directly relate to the needs of our community.”
The son of former Gary mayor, who speaks in measured tones, Visclosky welcomed well-wishers Tuesday night at a packed Croatian Hall in Merrillville. He carried an iced glass of soda as he mingled in the crowd.
Backers posed for selfies with him and provided updates on the Joe Donnelly-Mike Braun U.S. Senate race, won by Braun. A TV set sat in a corner tuned to CNN election results.
“I appreciate the support of the constituents of the 1st District,” he said. “To grow jobs and to make sure we have a just and tolerant society, you have to be committed.”
Visclosky said throughout his career, he’s focused on the steel industry, union workers, and significant investments in the transportation and economic infrastructure. He also championed park development and public access to Lake Michigan’s shoreline.
“I have fought for these endeavors for most of my career as a member of the minority party in the House, and I will continue to fight for these same priorities as a member of the majority party,” he said.
Wieser said Pete Visclosky was born into politics as the son of John Visclosky, who also served as Gary city controller before becoming mayor.
“He has a genuine concern and understanding of the people of Lake County and Northwest Indiana,” said Wieser. “He gets what this community is about.”
During his time in office, Visclosky has changed the landscape of the region from his Marquette Plan that transformed the lakeshore to stumping for money for the runway expansion at the Gary/Chicago International Airport.
Visclosky plans to continue his efforts toward the expansion of the South Shore commuter line from Hammond to Dyer and for the double tracking of the line from Gary to Michigan City.
Visclosky said he also plans to support a name change to bring national park status to the sprawling Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
During his 34 years in Congress, Visclosky said he’s only enjoyed being in the majority party four years.
Because he’s rarely been in the majority, Visclosky said he’s become adaptable.