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Inside Politics

Sodrel defeats incumbent Hill in rematch

Indiana 9th Congressional District

Republican challenger Mike Sodrel defeated Indiana Rep. Baron Hill after losing two years ago.
House: IN 09 Updated: 5:32 p.m. ET
Sodrel 49%
Hill 49%
100% precincts reporting
Election Results Main Page

(CNN) -- Democratic Rep. Baron Hill was narrowly defeated in his bid for a fourth term in Indiana's 9th district by Republican challenger Mike Sodrel, who Hill had defeated two years earlier in a close race.

Sodrel was ahead by less than 1,500 votes when CNN projected he would win the race with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

This time, Sodrel, who lost by some 10,000 votes in his maiden run for office in 2002, was a little smarter, a little more savvy and a lot better supported by his party. He took advantage of President George W. Bush's popularity in the district and attacked Hill's record.

During the campaign, Sodrel hammered Hill's voting record, declaring him overly liberal. In ads on TV and in stump speeches, Sodrel and his Republican party backers slammed Hill for being out of step with the culturally conservative district on the issues of abortion and a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, which Hill voted against.

"It's not enough to say the right things," said Sodrel, a millionaire trucking company owner, in the candidates' last debate. "You've got to do them."

In previous elections, Hill, 51, had done enough to get re-elected. A fiscal conservative who opposed the Bush tax cut plan, Hill made talking about balancing the budget a theme. He also pushed for creating jobs in the life science industry in the southern Indiana district.

Hill, who was a high school basketball star in Indiana, was wary of Sodrel's attempts to nationalize the race, and aimed to rely on his strong relationship with constituents -- compared to Sodrel's relative anonymity with district voters -- to help return him to Congress.

Sodrel said he would work to keep current manufacturing jobs while using tax breaks and trade regulations to attract high-tech industry. During the campaign, Sodrel, 60, noted that the district had lost 15,000 jobs in the past five years, and promised to work to reduce regulations, simplify tax compliance and support making the Bush tax cuts permanent.

Citing what the paper called Sodrel's "practical business experience, a good grasp of issues important to voters and service to his community," The Indianapolis Star endorsed Sodrel for the office.

"He recognizes the importance of trade but is concerned that any agreements with other nations must benefit the United States.... He calls himself a 'practical environmentalist,' saying the U.S. needs more domestic oil production in the short run and more emphasis on biodiesel, ethanol and hydrogen in the long run. Encouraging clean-coal technology, he notes, would benefit mining in southern Indiana."

As it entered the final weeks, the campaign remained hotly contested, with Hill trying to prevent Sodrel from being the first Republican to go to Congress from the 9th District since 1962.

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