LAPORTE — The youngest mayor in the history of LaPorte is hoping this year to make history again by becoming the first Republican to win Indiana's 1st Congressional District in the 90 years the district has been centered on Northwest Indiana.
Former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo filed paperwork Friday to run in the May 3 Republican primary election for U.S. House with an eye toward taking on first-term U.S. Rep. Frank J. Mrvan, D-Highland, in the Nov. 8 general election.
"I feel called to do this," Milo said in an exclusive interview with The Times. "We have an opportunity to elect a leader who will fight for Hoosier conservative values."
The Purdue University graduate and U.S. Navy veteran was elected LaPorte mayor in 2011 at age 28, and reelected in 2015.
She resigned her office in 2017 after Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed Milo as Indiana’s first Secretary for Career Connections and Talent, heading the state's initiatives to enhance employment opportunities for all Hoosiers.
She said her experience working with community leaders in LaPorte and across Northwest Indiana, along with her efforts alongside state and corporate officials to attract new talent to Indiana, have prepared her for the opportunity to truly make a difference in Congress.
"We're seeing trends across the country that resonate with sentiments that I've heard from many Hoosiers in the Region, and that I share," Milo said. "Frustration with the results that we are, and we aren't, getting out of Washington, D.C., and the desire for a different type of leadership and a different type of representation than we've had in years past."
Specifically, Milo said she's concerned about inflation running higher than at any point in her lifetime, along with the seemingly never-ending, burdensome federal regulations coming out of the White House.
"I think that we need to have policies that are ensuring that Americans are able to keep as much money, and grow as much money, in their pockets that these policies are not providing," Milo said.
She said it's doubly unfortunate because she believes Northwest Indiana has a real path toward becoming "a hub of industrial innovation," if the federal government only would just engage in responsible partnerships with industry, and provide support for local infrastructure and other resources.
"That's where I think there's an opportunity for being able to bring the kinds of experiences and results that I've been able to have in the city of LaPorte and serving communities across the state — to be able to better meet the sentiments and desires of Hoosiers across Northwest Indiana that I don't think the current representation is providing," Milo said.
As for her Republican bona fides, Milo is proudly vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, just like Holcomb. She also doubts the results of the 2020 presidential election using language similar to that of Republican former President Donald Trump.
"I think that there are a lot of questions and changes that emerged over the course of the 2020 electoral process that a lot of people have questions about. We need to investigate those different procedures to ensure that people feel trust in the electoral process," Milo said.
"Some of the solutions that are being brought forward currently are not solutions that I think people in Northwest Indiana, or across the country, are looking for. So we have to continue to evaluate those changes that were put into place and determine what the best path is forward."
Milo is not alone in seeking the Republican nomination to represent Northwest Indiana in Congress.
She is, however, the only candidate to previously win election to a major office in Northwest Indiana that's competing in a race the National Republican Congressional Committee believes is winnable for the GOP in the general election.
The other Republican candidates who so far have filed for the 1st Congressional District include Jennifer-Ruth Green, Thomas Madden, Ben Ruiz and Aaron Storer. The district's perennial GOP nominee, Mark Leyva, also has indicated on Facebook he plans to run again.
Milo said she's not yet spoken with her competitors. But she has heard from plenty of supporters in Northwest Indiana, and across the country, that helped her realize Congress is "the place where I can best serve."
"I've really appreciated the conversations I've been having with current members of Congress and Republican leaders in all different states and communities," Milo said. "It's been really an incredible journey already of people who have actually reached out to me encouraging me to get engaged in the race."
Drew Anderson, spokesman for the Indiana Democratic Party, said Hoosier Democrats are eager to remind Northwest Indiana voters what Mrvan has accomplished since he succeeded retired U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, as the Region's congressman last year.
"When Hoosiers needed help the most, Congressman Frank Mrvan delivered through the American Rescue Plan and through the Jobs Act. That meant Mrvan delivered union jobs, Mrvan delivered broadband, a teacher pay raise, infrastructure investments, and made sure that families across the 1st District had access to affordable child care," Anderson said.
"People like Blair Milo and Indiana Republicans call that socialism. When it comes to this race, Indiana Democrats are ready to go 110% to make sure the congressman is reelected because he understands those kitchen-table issues are what matters most to Hoosier families."