Trucking executive readies for Capitol

| 12/14/2004

Indiana Republican Mike Sodrel proved the second time was the charm last month when he narrowly defeated U.S. Rep. Baron Hill for a seat in Congress representing Indiana’s ninth district.

Sodrel, who won by a slim margin of about 1,400 votes in November’s election, had lost to Hill by some 10,000 votes in 2002.

The 58-year-old trucking company executive is the first Republican to represent Indiana’s ninth congressional district in the U.S. House in 40 years.

Shortly before the election, Sodrel appeared with President Bush. He took advantage of Bush’s popularity in the southern Indiana district and attacked Hill’s record.

Sodrel made an issue of Hill’s support for permanent normal trade relations with China, saying it had cost Indiana manufacturing jobs.

As an alternative, Sodrel said he would work to keep current manufacturing jobs while using tax breaks and trade regulations to attract high-tech industry. He also 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.

Despite the concern for jobs, Sodrel told Land Line that the China trade agreement is not likely to have a direct impact on trucking companies, large or small.

“Finished goods still have to travel from point of entry or place of manufacture to the consumers,” he said. “Our nation cannot, however, become a nation of consumers. We must maintain and strengthen our manufacturing base. Our economy and our national security depend on our manufacturing industry.”

Citing 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, …” the newspaper’s endorsement stated. “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-oil technology, he notes, would benefit the mining in southern Indiana.”

Sodrel reiterated to Land Line the need to develop more domestic oil production.

“It is not in our nation’s best interest to be as dependent as we are on imported oil. Trucking companies of all sizes need dependable sources of fuel, at stable prices, to keep America’s economy moving. We certainly need to increase domestic supplies in an environmentally sound fashion, but it needs to be done as soon as possible,” said the representative-elect.

Sodrel is owner and operator of three businesses: The Free Enterprise System, a motor coach and contract passenger carrier; SOLO Logistics; and Sodrel Truck Lines – employing more than 500 people across Indiana.

The former Army National Guardsman still maintains a valid CDL.

Sodrel will be inaugurated into office in January.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor