EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) -- The candidate who Democrats hope can be the one to end their string of close losses to Republican Rep. John Hostettler kicked off his campaign by saying the southwestern Indiana district needed a change in leadership.
Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth began a four-day tour of the Eighth District with stops Monday in Terre Haute, Vincennes and Evansville for what could become one of the nation's most-closely watched congressional races.
Previous Democratic candidates have criticized Hostettler as an ineffective congressman who has done little for the district while concentrating on a conservative Christian agenda. Ellsworth did not mention Hostettler during Monday's kickoff speech in a crowded hotel conference room, but alluded to some of the same themes.
"I won't ignore you and I won't change the subject you want to talk about," he said. "The district needs a leader, not a talker."
Hostettler has fended off well-funded Democratic challengers to win by narrow margins in most of his re-election campaigns since he upset Democratic Rep. Frank McCloskey in 1994. He won election to a sixth term in 2004 by defeating Democrat Jon Jennings with 53 percent of the vote.
A message seeking a response to Ellsworth's comments was left Monday at Hostettler's campaign office.
Ellsworth, who was unopposed in 2002 for a second term as sheriff of the district's largest county, stressed his law enforcement background and southwestern Indiana roots as benefits if he was elected to Congress.
Ellsworth, 47, said he first joined the sheriff's department in 1982 "because I liked helping the underdog."
He gained some national attention last November as he oversaw rescue efforts following the tornado that killed 23 people in the Evansville area, but he did not mention that work in Monday's announcement.
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