Fifteen months ahead of the 2018 Congressional race, Courtney Tritch is doing everything she can to build a base of support.
So far, the political newcomer is the only Democrat to file to run against first-term Republican incumbent Rep. Jim Banks and has growing support across the Third District, including Kosciusko County Democrat Chair Brian Smith who is openingly supporting her campaign.
She launched her campaign last month in Fort Wayne with the realization that she needs to “play the long game and build name recognition and funding, of course.”
“I’ve been going full speed into every country every day since then,” Tritch said Sunday while participating in a gathering on the SS Lillypad, an excursion boat that took Democrat supporters on a tour of Lake Wawasee Sunday afternoon.
Tritch has 10 years of experience in economic development, including seven years with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, where she served as vice president of marketing. Prior to that, she worked with a downtown economic development group in Fort Wayne.
On Sunday, in her pitch to supporters, Tritch’s themes were a mix of bipartisanship, hope and concern.
“It’s important that the leadership that we choose next is leadership that is tenacious enough to get the job done without beholding to someone else’s ideas and is willing to work across party lines,” Tritch said.
“I think we achieve the best answers by Republicans and Democrats talking it out,” she said.
Two of her top concerns are the future of health care reform and climate change, both of which she sees a stark contrast with Banks.
She accused Banks of “callously voting” to take away health care from 23 million Americans and said she believes everyone deserves access to heath care.
She was also critical of Banks who she said has called climate change “leftist propaganda.”
“I just don’t understand why we have decided in today’s society that facts don’t matter. I don’t think that’s a partisan issue,” she said.
She said the issue, in many ways, is a matter of economics and that there is “no viable economic reason” to oppose policies that reflect concerns for climate change.
“We have so many auto and auto suppliers in this region, and that industry is changing hugely when it come to clean energy and what the market wants. These are common sense ideas that are not partisan at all and yet, they have become that,” Tritch said.
Tritch established a informal series of meetings in Fort Wayne that she calls “Progressive Social Hour” in an attempt to gather people together in hopes of bringing people together and grow the community “in a warm, welcoming way.”
She said the meetings are seeing a turnout of more than 100 people.
The 40-year-old Fort Wayne native said she was motivated to run by the death of an older sister, who died at the age of 39, and her mother who passed away a year ago.
“It makes you think about what’s important and what’s worth fighting for, and I watched the November election and some of the decisions being made since then and I was like, ‘I just can’t stand by and watch this happen and not do something.’”
Her family, she said, taught her to stand up for those without a voice.
“That is the task for all of us in 2018,” she said.
Also speaking Sunday was Dee Moore, a candidate for Indiana House District 18 who is gearing up for a rematch against longtime incumbent Republican Dave Wolkins, who has not formally announced his intentions.
Moore spoke about the need to sustain regulations that support the environment and a sense of unity within the party.
Sunday’s two-hour excursion on Lake Wawasee sold more than 110 tickets to the event, according to Smith. Actual attendance was a bit lower, but Smith said it was the biggest turnout since the party hosted Ed Schultz in 2011.
“We’re seeing an enormous amount energy from our members,” Smith said.