In a press release sent Monday morning, Bloomington city councilmember Andy Ruff, a Democrat, announced he’s running for the 9th District U.S. Representative seat currently held by Republican Trey Hollingsworth.
In the press release, Ruff is quoted as saying, “I’m running because we need to do a much better job of reflecting the real needs of the people of our district. I’m committed to serving our region of Southern Indiana and fighting for average Hoosiers.”
At the end of the year, Ruff will wrap up two decades of service on Bloomington’s city council. His 20 years as an at-large member of the council make him the third longest-serving member of the local legislative body in the modern era—after Timothy Mayer and David Chitwood. Mayer and Chitwood each served a quarter century.
Ruff lost his re-election bid to the city council this spring. He placed fourth in the Democratic Party primary out of six candidates for the three at-large seats on the nine-member council. His 2,337 votes were 227 short of the tally by the third-place candidate, Matt Flaherty. At-large city councilmembers are elected citywide.
Reached by phone, president of the city council, Dave Rollo, said about Ruff: “I’m certainly supporting him. He’s an extraordinary candidate. He’s got my hundred-percent backing.”
Rollo, who has served with Ruff on the Bloomington city council for more than a decade and a half, said “Andy really set the tone for an inclusive government that wasn’t driven by certain special interests.”
One specific example Rollo gave was in the area of land use. Rollo said, “One of the most significant powers of local government is land use, and decades ago, land use was much more circumscribed to certain interests within the community that also happened to benefit from it. Andy was one of the green Democrats who were calling for a more inclusive community view of…government vis-à-vis land use.”
Rollo called Ruff a dedicated supporter of organized labor. Ruff ran his 2003 campaign on passing a living wage ordinance, for Bloomington, Rollo said.
“Andy is on the left, but as a populist. He’s for working-class people,” Rollo said.
Independent Nick Kappas, who lost this year’s District 3 city council race to Democrat Ron Smith by 23 votes, characterized Ruff as a kind of “centrist.” While Kappas said Ruff was a good candidate, he’s waiting to see who else contests the Democratic Party primary before backing anyone.
The announcement from state senator Mark Stoops in early November that he won’t seek re-election to the state legislature has been interpreted by many as an indication he plans to run for the 9th District.
The Beacon was not able to reach Stoops for comment before publication of this story.
The last four election cycles in the 9th District have seen a Democratic Party primary race contested by at least three candidates.
Whoever the Democratic Party nominee is, they’ll have a tough race in the 2020 general election. The 9th District has been a solid Republican district. The Republican candidate has carried the district by at least an 11-point margin in the last four elections.
Kappas said for a candidate like Ruff, who has 20 years of name recognition as an at-large city councilmember, it would be a mistake to focus only on motivating the Democratic Party base in Monroe County.
“It goes without saying,” Ruff told the Beacon Monday afternoon, that candidates need to talk to people outside of Monroe County.
Ruff added, “Last night I was in Lawrence County talking to people. Tonight, I’m going to be in Washington County.” Over the next weeks, Ruff said, “I’m going to go be out in the district at every opportunity, just listening to people about what their needs are and what the issues are for people in the 9th District.”
One topic he wants to hear more about from 9th District residents is the impact of tariffs on farmers. What’s the impact for their next crop year?
Ruff said the 9th District is home to more veterans than an average Congressional district, and he doesn’t think they’re getting all the services and benefits they deserve and need.
Ruff said he wants to work the entire time in his campaign on “this fundamental idea that we need a plan to help improve the lives of people in the 9th District.”
About Bloomington, Ruff said, “Bloomington has this reputation of being this crazy, liberal, radical, left-wing bastion in otherwise conservative southern Indiana, but … I don’t agree.” For Ruff, the part of the district outside of Bloomington is not a radically different place. “We’re a part of southern Indiana,” he said.
As an example of the overlapping interests inside and outside Bloomington, Ruff gave the city’s living wage ordinance. The city of Bloomington had adjusted the floor to the local minimum wage, because the federal minimum was never indexed to inflation, he said. (Bloomington’s living wage ordinance applies to city workers and contractors with the city.)
The living wage in Bloomington was designed help ensure that workers can earn enough to provide the basics. “Isn’t that relevant and speak to the needs of all residents across the district?” Ruff asked. “We can do a lot better reflecting the needs of the 9th District than what we’ve currently got,” Ruff said.
Ruff is an academic advisor for the Indiana University human biology program.
Ruff earned an undergraduate degree in natural resources from Cornell University. He also holds a secondary level teaching certification from the IU School of Education, and a master’s degree in public administration from the IU School of Public & Environmental Affairs.
Indiana 9th District Election History
|2014||R. Mike Frey||L||9||5,777||3.56%|