Todd Rokita

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Todd Rokita
Todd Rokita, Official Portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 4th district
In office
January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2019
Preceded bySteve Buyer
Succeeded byJim Baird
59th Secretary of State of Indiana
In office
December 1, 2002 – December 1, 2010
GovernorFrank O'Bannon
Joe E. Kernan
Mitch Daniels
Preceded bySue Anne Gilroy
Succeeded byCharlie White
Personal details
Born
Theodore Edward Rokita

(1970-02-09) February 9, 1970 (age 49)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Kathy Rokita
Children2
EducationWabash College (BA)
Indiana University, Indianapolis (JD)

Theodore Edward Rokita /rˈktə/ (born February 9, 1970) is an American politician who served as the member of the United States House of Representatives from Indiana's 4th congressional district from 2011 to 2019. A member of the Republican Party, he served two terms as Secretary of State of Indiana from 2002 to 2010. When Rokita was elected to office in 2002 at age 32, he became the youngest secretary of state in the United States at the time.

Rokita was a candidate to replace Mike Pence in the 2016 Indiana gubernatorial election after Pence withdrew from the race to be Donald Trump's running mate in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. He lost to Eric Holcomb, Pence's lieutenant governor.[1]

On August 8, 2017, Rokita announced he would vacate his House seat to run for the Indiana U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Joe Donnelly.[2] On May 8, 2018, he lost the Republican primary election to Mike Braun by a little more than 11%.[3]

Education and personal life[edit]

Rokita grew up in Munster, Indiana and attended Munster High School.[4] He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where he was an Eli Lilly Fellow and a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.[5] He has a law degree from IUPUI's Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.[6]

Congressman Rokita with his wife Kathy and their two children

Rokita was a practicing attorney. In 1997 he joined the secretary of state's office as general counsel. He later became deputy secretary of state.[7]

In 2000, Rokita served as legal counsel for seven Florida counties during the recount for the George W. Bush presidential campaign.[8]

Rokita is a member of the Director's Circle of the Indiana Council for Economic Education, the state bar association, the Knights of Columbus, and the National Rifle Association. He has also served as Chair of NASS's New Millennium Young Voters Summit of 2004, chair of the standing Voter Participation Committee and vice chair of the Securities Regulation Committee.[9]

Rokita formerly lived in Clermont, an "included town" in Indianapolis under the Unigov system.[10] The 2010 round of redistricting cut out the 4th's share of Indianapolis and Marion County, leaving Rokita's home 500 yards outside the new 4th's eastern border. Members of Congress are required to live only in the state they represent, but it is a strong convention that they live within their district's borders. In 2012 Rokita ran for reelection from his home in Clermont,[11] but he later bought a home near Brownsburg, a western suburb of Indianapolis within the 4th district.[9]

Volunteer work[edit]

Rokita's oldest son, Teddy, suffers from Angelman syndrome. Rokita and his wife, Kathy, are active in promoting awareness of the syndrome.[12] They participate in and organize charity walks related to Angelman. He has cited his son's ailment in policy speeches.[13]

A commercial-rated pilot, Rokita volunteers his time by flying people in need of non-emergency medical care to hospitals and clinics throughout the Midwest for treatment with organizations that include Veterans Airlift Command and Angel Flight.[14][15][16][17]

He is a member of the Indiana chapter of the International Flying Farmers.[18] He also served as member of the Saint Vincent Hospital Foundation Board of Directors.[19]

Indiana Secretary of State[edit]

Elected in 2002, Todd Rokita became the youngest Secretary of state in the United States at the time.[20] As secretary of state, he visited each of Indiana's 92 counties at least once per year.[21] Rokita was named as one of the "40 under 40" by the Indianapolis Business Journal in 2005.[22]

Rokita was active in the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), and after serving as the elected treasurer, he became the President for the 2007–08 term.[23] He was elected by his peers nationally to serve on the nine-member federal executive board of the Election Assistance Commission.[7] The commission is charged by law to address election reform issues on a nationwide basis. Rokita has testified about Indiana's voting reform efforts before the United States Congress.

Voter identification[edit]

In 2005, Rokita helped craft and implement Indiana's voter photo identification law. [24][25] The law required voters who cast their ballots at the Indiana polling locations to show government issued photo identification. As one of the first states to require photo identification for voting, the Indiana law was viewed to be on the of the strictest voter identification laws at the time.[26]

Rokita was a named defendant when Indiana's voter identification case went before the U.S. Supreme Court on January 9, 2008; the combined cases of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (07-21) and Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita (07-25). In April 2008, the Supreme Court upheld Indiana's voter photo ID law. [27] Rokita noted as a result of the Supreme Court decision that the “The Indiana case is still very much the law of the land and I don’t expect that to change."[28]

Rethinking Redistricting[edit]

Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita's Rethinking Redistricting (Logo)

In September 2009, Rokita outlined a plan called "Rethinking Redistricting" to reform how Indiana's legislative districts are drawn to reduce gerrymandering. He proposed making it a felony for lawmakers to use political data or incumbents' addresses when drawing electoral maps. Rokita said boundaries should follow existing county and township lines, and that each of the 50 Senate districts should be divided into two House districts, claiming that would lead to more competitive legislative elections.[29][30]

The reform plan sought to achieve these five objectives:

  • Keep communities of interest together
  • Create more compact and geographically uniform districts
  • Reduce voters' confusion about who represents them by following already existing political boundaries, such as county and township lines
  • Not use any political data, including incumbent addresses, for partisan reasons
  • “Nest” two House districts under the existing lines of a Senate district

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Congressman Rokita sits with Vice President Mike Pence on Air Force 2.

Tenure[edit]

Rokita served as vice-chairman of the United States House Committee on the Budget.[31]

Legislation[edit]

Agriculture[edit]

He co-sponsored the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act – passing the House in March 2011 – in order to prevent the "significant burden on small businesses for little obvious environmental benefit." Rokita also co-sponsored the Preserving America's Family Farms Act – which passed the House in July 2012 – citing Indiana's dependence on youth work on family farms.[32]

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue with Rep. Todd Rokita

Education[edit]

As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, he had an active role in crafting the Every Student Succeeds Act, which reauthorized the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act.[33][34] In May, Rokita introduced bipartisan legislation to help students and parents with student loan debt. His legislation would allow student loan borrowers to refinance loans and have access to lower market rate loans.[35]

In 2015, Rokita and Senator Marco Rubio introduced the Education Opportunities Act, legislation to expand school choice options for low- and middle-income families to help them attend the school of their choice.[36][37][38]

On April 2, 2014, Rokita introduced the Strengthening Education through Research Act (H.R. 4366; 113th Congress).[39] The bill would amend and reauthorize the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 and would authorize the appropriation of $615 million for fiscal year 2015 and $3.8 billion over the 2015–19 period to support federal educational research, statistical analysis, and other activities.[40]

Aviation[edit]

Rokita co-wrote legislation that directed the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration to reform and modernize the medical certification for small aircraft pilots.[41] In 2017, he received the Hartranft Award from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) for contributions to general aviation.[42] In October 2018, he received the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) American Spirit Award for his leadership and work with business aviation in Congress.[43]

Gun law[edit]

Rokita voted in favor of a bill "Requiring State Reciprocity for Carrying Concealed Firearms" in November 2011.[44]

Tax reform[edit]

In 2017, Rokita voted in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.[45] Following the passage of tax reform, Rokita introduced the "Creating Relief and Useful Middle-Class Benefits and Savings" (CRUMBS) Act. The legislation was introduced in response to Nancy Pelosi's comments that bonuses as a result of tax reform amounted to "crumbs." Rokita's bill would have made bonuses received by individuals in 2018 tax-free up to $2,500.[46] The legislation earned the praise of pro-tax cut organizations like Americans for Tax Reform and FreedomWorks.[47][48]

The American Conservative Union gave him a lifetime Congressional rating of 93%.

Committee assignments[edit]

Rokita previously served on the Committee on House Administration.[50][51]

Political campaigns[edit]

Todd Rokita Announces Run for U.S. Senate
2002

On June 15, 2002, Rokita won the Republican nomination for Indiana Secretary of State at the state convention over Mike Delph, then an aide to U.S. Representative Dan Burton, Marion County Coroner John McGodd, and then-Vanderburgh County Commissioner Richard Mourdock.[52] Rokita went on to win the general election with 53.4% of the vote.[53]

2006

Rokita received the Republican nomination again in 2006 and won the general election with 51.1% of the vote in a year when Democrats took five of Indiana's nine congressional seats.[54]

2010

On February 1, 2010, three days after Congressman Steve Buyer of Indiana's 4th congressional district said that he would retire at the end of his term, Rokita posted an announcement on Facebook making clear his intentions to run for the open seat. Buyer's announcement touched off a free-for-all among area Republicans to succeed him. Ultimately, 13 candidates entered the Republican primary, including Rokita.[citation needed]

With a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+14, the 4th is one of the most Republican districts in the Eastern Time Zone and tied for the second-most Republican in the state (behind the 5th District). It was taken for granted that whoever won the primary would be heavily favored to be the district's next representative. Rokita won the primary with 42% of the vote and the general election with 68.6% of the vote.[citation needed]

2012

Rokita won the general election in 2012 with 62% of the vote.[55]

2014

Rokita won the Republican nomination in 2014 with 71% of the vote.[56] He won the general election with 67% of the vote over John Dale, a teacher at Western Boone High School.[57]

Rokita with President Trump
2016

Rokita won the Republican nomination in 2016 with 60% of the vote. In the general election, he faced John Dale in a rematch from 2014. Rokita was reelected with 65% of the vote to Dale's 30%. Libertarian Steven M. Mayoras received 5%.[58]

2018

On August 8, 2017, Rokita announced his intention to run for the U.S. Senate in 2018 against Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly.[59] He lost the Republican primary election to Mike Braun, coming in second with 30% of the vote.[60]

Political positions[edit]

Domestic issues[edit]

Todd Rokita discusses education policy with Education Secretary Betsy Devos

Education[edit]

Rokita supports charter schools, school choice, and reducing the role of the Department of Education in setting education policy.[61]

Energy and oil[edit]

Rokita believes "in an all-of-the-above policy that utilizes all available resources and technologies, so long as such resources and technologies are supported by the free market."[62]

Environment[edit]

Rokita has a 4% lifetime voting rating from the League of Conservation Voters, an environmentalist group. In 2016, the group gave him a 0% rating.[63] He does not accept the scientific consensus that human activity is the driving factor of climate change,[64][65] and at a 2013 town-hall event called the idea that climate change was caused by human activity "arrogant."[65][66]

Gun law[edit]

Rokita has stated: "I'm proud of my 'A' rating from the NRA" and has said that he will "protect our 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms."[32]

[67]

Health care[edit]

Rokita supports repealing Obamacare.[62] He opposes health care regulations that increase the national debt, earning a "B" rating by the National Taxpayers Union 2011 Positions on Tax and Spending.[68]

Economic issues[edit]

Agriculture[edit]

Rokita opposes direct federal government regulation of agriculture. A representative of a heavy-farming district in Indiana, he supports deregulating agriculture, earning him an "A" rating from the American Farm Bureau Federation.[69]

National debt and federal spending[edit]

Rokita has said, "Unless we get our government spending under control, we will unfairly burden the next generation with massive amounts of debt. We need to reform these programs to solve the problem."[62]

International issues[edit]

Rokita visits Grissom

Immigration and refugees[edit]

In 2017, Rokita introduced the Stopping Lawless Actions of Politicians (SLAP) Act, some of the most aggressive anti-sanctuary city legislation to date in congress. The legislation would introduced fines and jail time for state and local politicians who ignored federal immigration laws and ICE detainers.[70] The legislation received praise from conservative media and garnered support by anti-illegal immigrant organizations like NumbersUSA. [71] The Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the legislation, saying it was an effort to "bully" local communities into enforcing federal immigration laws.[72]

Rokita supported President Trump's 2017 executive order temporarily banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.[73]

In 2014, Rokita expressed concern that border agents could come in contact with illegal immigrants carrying the Ebola virus, saying, "from a public-health standpoint" it is important to know who is coming across the southern border, citing the Ebola virus epidemic spreading in Africa and news reports indicating that nationals from 75 different countries had been apprehended between 2010 and 2014 illegally crossing the Mexico-United States border.[74]

Social issues[edit]

Todd Rokita greets March for Life participants from the University of Notre Dame

Abortion[edit]

Rokita opposes abortion and has maintained a 100% pro-life voting record according to the National Right to Life Committee.[75] He holds that "every life is a precious gift from God that begins from the moment of conception."[76]

Cannabis[edit]

Rokita has a "D" rating from NORML for his voting history on cannabis-related causes. He opposes recreational use of marijuana, citing concern that it is a "gateway drug" to more dangerous narcotics. He expressed willingness to support legalization of some medical uses for marijuana only if the THC is removed, on the grounds that it may help people like his son Teddy, who has a rare neuro-genetic disorder called Angelman syndrome.[77]

Rokita is a supporter of industrial hemp, having voted to allow its production. In December 2018 he told a group of local Republicans that legalizing industrial hemp "could help the farming community." [78][79]

Tribal lands[edit]

Rokita authored the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act. The bill would "make clear that the National Labor Relations Board has no jurisdiction over businesses owned and operated by an Indian tribe and located on tribal land." It cleared the House as of 2018, but has not been considered in the Senate.[80]

Donald Trump[edit]

During his time in Congress, Rokita voted in line with President Donald Trump 90% of the time.[81] During the Republican primary for the 2018 United States Senate election in Indiana, Rokita earned the support of the chair and vice chair of 2016 Trump campaign in Indiana. [82] In May 2019, the White House announced that he would be nominated by Trump to serve on the AMTRAK Board of Directors.[83]

Electoral history[edit]

Date Position Status Opponent Result Vote share Top-opponent vote share
2002 Secretary of State of Indiana Open-seat John Fernandez (D) Elected 53.41%[84] 42.46%
2006 Secretary of State of Indiana Incumbent Joe Pearson (D) Re-elected 51.06%[85] 45.60%
2010 U.S. Representative Open-seat David Sanders (D) Elected 68.57%[86] 26.28%
2012 U.S. Representative Incumbent Tara Nelson (D) Re-elected 61.96%[87] 34.16%
2014 U.S. Representative Incumbent John Dale (D) Re-elected 66.87%[88] 33.13%
2016 U.S. Representative Incumbent John Dale (D) Re-elected 64.60%[89] 30.47%

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Sue Anne Gilroy
Secretary of State of Indiana
2002–2010
Succeeded by
Charlie White
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Steve Buyer
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 4th congressional district

2011–2019
Succeeded by
Jim Baird