Joe Donnelly

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Joe Donnelly
Joe Donnelly, official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
United States Senator
from Indiana
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Serving with Todd Young
Preceded by Richard Lugar
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Chris Chocola
Succeeded by Jackie Walorski
Personal details
Born Joseph Simon Donnelly
(1955-09-29) September 29, 1955 (age 62)
Massapequa, New York, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jill Donnelly
Education University of Notre Dame (BA, JD)
Website Senate website

Joseph Simon Donnelly Sr. (born September 29, 1955) is an American attorney and politician serving as the senior United States Senator from Indiana, since 2013. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

Born in Massapequa, New York, Donnelly graduated from The University of Notre Dame.[1] He began his career serving on the Indiana State Election Board before working as an attorney in practice. From 1997 to 2001, he was a member of the Mishawaka Marian School Board, serving as the board's President from 2000 to 2001. In 2004, Donnelly won the Democratic nomination for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, losing to Republican incumbent Chris Chocola in the general election. He challenged Chocola again in 2006, winning election with 54% of the vote. He represented Indiana's 2nd congressional district from 2007 to 2013, winning reelection in 2008 and 2010.

In May 2011, Donnelly announced his intentions to run for the U.S. Senate, winning the Democratic nomination one year later in an uncontested primary. He then faced Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock who had defeated 36-year incumbent Richard Lugar in the Republican primary. On November 6, 2012 Donnelly defeated Mourdock in the general election, receiving 50% of the vote to Mourdock's 44%.[2][3]

He is running for reelection in the 2018 elections.

Early life, education, and law career[edit]

Donnelly was born and raised on the South Shore of Long Island in Massapequa, New York.[4] Donnelly moved to South Bend, Indiana in 1973 when he was accepted into the University of Notre Dame, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in government in 1977, and earned his Juris Doctor from Notre Dame Law School in 1981.[5] He practiced law at the Nemeth, Feeney and Masters law firm until 1996, when he opened Marking Solutions, a printing and rubber-stamp company.[6]

Early political career[edit]

Donnelly served on the Indiana State Election Board from 1988 to 1989. He was a member of the Marian High School Board from 1997 to 2001.[7]

He ran a campaign for Indiana Attorney General in 1988, but lost at the Democratic state convention. He also ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Indiana Senate in 1990.[7]

In 2004, Donnelly ran for Indiana's 2nd congressional district. He won the Democratic nomination unopposed. Donnelly lost the election to incumbent Republican Chris Chocola by a margin of 54%–45%.[8]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]


Official Portrait of Donnelly as a freshman in the U.S. House in the 110th Congress.

On May 2, 2006, Donnelly defeated Steve Francis for the Democratic nomination, setting up a rematch against Republican incumbent Chris Chocola.[9] Because of President George W. Bush's waning popularity, the race was expected to be competitive. The website targeted Donnelly and ran advertising against him.[10] Chocola maintained a decisive lead in fundraising, raising $3.2 million to Donnelly's $1.5 million.[11] The campaign was heated, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sponsoring ads attacking Chocola as being beholden to moneyed interests in the insurance, pharmaceutical, and energy industries. Chocola returned fire by attacking Donnelly over a late tax filing and by attempting to link him to liberal House leader Nancy Pelosi.[12]

On November 7, 2006, Donnelly defeated Chocola 54%-46%, a difference of 15,145 votes.[13] The key difference between the 2006 and 2004 elections for Donnelly lay in the results within St. Joseph County, the location of South Bend and by far the largest county in the district. Donnelly won that county with 58% of vote, generating a 14,000-vote margin.[14]


Donnelly ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination.[15] In the general election, he won re-election to a second term with 67% of the vote.[16]


Donnelly ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination.[17] In the general election, he was challenged by Republican nominee State Representative Jackie Walorski. Despite the Republican wave in the 2010 midterm elections, Donnelly won re-election to a third term, defeating Walorski 48%-46%.[18]

Committee assignments[edit]

Donnelly was named to the House Financial Services Committee for the 110th Congress.[19]

U.S. Senate[edit]

2012 election[edit]

Senator Joe Donnelly, with former Senator Birch Bayh and his son, former Governor of Indiana and Senator Evan Bayh

On May 8, 2012, Donnelly ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate.[20] He faced Tea Party favorite, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who defeated 6 term incumbent Richard Lugar in the Republican primary, and Libertarian nominee Andy Horning.[21]

An issue in the campaign was the auto bailout of 2009, which Donnelly supported and Mourdock said was unconstitutional.[22] Donnelly fashioned himself "a common-sense Hoosier in the tradition of Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh.[23][24]

Donnelly was endorsed by The Journal Gazette and the South Bend Tribune.[25]

During the campaign Mourdock became embroiled in a controversy after stating that pregnancy from rape is "something that God intended."[26][27] His remarks were made during a debate on October 23, 2012, while explaining his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape.[28]

On November 6, 2012 Donnelly defeated Mourdock by a 50% to 44% margin.[29]


Donnelly playing at the 2017 congressional baseball game

On January 3, 2013, Donnelly was sworn into the United States Senate in the 113th Congress by Vice President Joe Biden.[30] Donnelly is the first Democrat to hold this seat since Vance Hartke was defeated by Richard Lugar in 1977. The Lugar Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that founded by former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar in 2013, ranked Donnelly as the #2 most bipartisan member of the 114th United States Congress.[31]

Committee assignments[edit]

Political positions[edit]

Donnelly is a moderate Democrat who "sometimes bucks his party on issues such as abortion, defense spending and the environment."[32][33] According to Politico, "Donnelly is constantly dogged by Republicans aiming to unseat him" while also facing "disgruntled Democrats who think he's far too conservative."[34]

Economic policy[edit]


In 2017, Donnelly said he was finalizing the sale of approximately $50,000 worth of stock in the Stewart Superior Corporation, an arts and crafts business that operates a factory in Mexico. The sale of stock came after the Associated Press reported that the company benefits from the same trade practices which Donnelly, a longtime critic of outsourcing jobs, has criticized throughout his political career.[35] According to the Associated Press, Donnelly "railed against Carrier Corp. for moving manufacturing jobs to Mexico last year, even as he profited from a family business that relies on Mexican labor to produce dye for ink pads."[36]


In February 2009, Donnelly voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.[37]

Donnelly voted against the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 (a two-month extension of an expiring provision from the American Recovery Act, forestalling an increase in the payroll tax from 4.2% to 6.2%); he voted for the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (a one-year extension of the same provision).[38][39] In 2012 Donnelly also voted for H.R. 9, the Small Business Tax Cut Act, which would allow businesses with fewer than 500 employees to receive a tax deduction equal to 20% of their domestic business income.[40]

Donnelly was one of 276 members of Congress who voted for the Tax Relief and Unemployment Insurance Act of 2010, extending the 2001 and 2003 Bush-era tax cuts and a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits.[41] In an interview, Donnelly said that he favors making the tax cuts permanent for middle-class Americans and temporarily extending the cuts for families making at least $250,000.[42] During a speech at the 2012 Indiana Democratic Convention, Donnelly said that he would support a temporary one-year extension of all Bush-era tax cuts, declaring "Given our continued economic challenges, now is the time to keep tax rates low, the last thing our economy can afford is more uncertainty."[43]

On September 27, 2013, Donnelly voted for the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014 (H.J.Res 59).[44]

Financial regulation

During his second term, Donnelly voted for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.[45]

In March 2012, Donnelly signed a letter with other Democratic members of the House and Senate urging Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler to curb oil speculation in the commodity market through new provisions in the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.[46]

In July 2012 Donnelly voted in favor of H.R. 459, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, sponsored by Texas Congressman Ron Paul.[47] The bill requires a full audit of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and Federal reserve banks by the Comptroller General.[48]

Labor issues

In 2007, Donnelly co-sponsored the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007.[49] The act allowed Congress to gradually raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour.[50] Donnelly voted in favor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.[51]

Health care[edit]

Donnelly, along with 197 members of the House, was a cosponsor of the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2007.[52] Donnelly voted against the Prescription Drug Imports Act, which would have "allowed funds to be used to prohibit the importation of prescription drugs by anyone who is not a legally sanctioned importer of drugs, a wholesaler, or a pharmacist."[53]

In 2007, Donnelly was a co-sponsor of the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIP), which would have added $35 billion and 4 million children to the program over five years by raising the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents to $1 per pack. After passing the House and Senate, the measure was vetoed by President George W. Bush.[54] Donnelly joined 217 Democrats and 42 Republicans in a failed measure to override President Bush's veto.[55]

In March 2010, Donnelly voted in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly called ObamaCare or the Affordable Care Act).[56] In 2013, Donnelly proposed changing the Affordable Care Act's definition of full-time work from 30 hours a week to 40.[57] He also supported repealing the medical device excise tax, a 2.3% tax on the sale of certain medical devices by the manufacturer, producer or importer of the device.[58] In 2012, Donnelly cosponsored the Protect Medical Innovation Act, which would repeal the tax.[59][60] When asked about the tax, Donnelly said that, "We fought very hard to keep the medical-device tax out of the bill, and the pledge was we will continue to fight very hard to have it removed."[61] On September 30, 2013, Donnelly voted to remove a provision which would repeal the medical device tax from a government funding bill in opposition to the provision being used as a condition in keeping the government open.[62][63]

Foreign policy[edit]

Donnelly with U.S. service members of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

In 2011 Donnelly voted to allow Department of Defense funds to be used for military actions in support of the NATO Intervention in Libya. Donnelly also voted in support of the failed resolution to authorize the President to continue the limited use of U.S. Forces in Libya. The resolution stated that Congress does not support deploying, establishing, or maintaining the presence of units and members of U.S. Armed Forces on the ground in Libya unless the purpose of the presence is limited to the defense of U.S. government officials or NATO member forces from imminent danger.[64][dead link]


Donnelly voted against the Iraq War troop surge of 2007.[65] In July 2007, Donnelly joined 221 other House members in voting for HR 2956, the Responsible Redeployment from Iraq Act. This legislation contained a deadline for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.[66]

Donnelly with service member of the United States Marine Corps.

In 2011, Donnelly aligned himself with Republicans and seven other members of the Blue Dog Coalition in a 204-215 House vote against an accelerated withdrawal from the war in Afghanistan.[67] Donnelly reaffirmed opposition to an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan in voting against the Lee amendment, proposed in H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. The Lee amendment, if passed, would have prohibited the military spending any money in Afghanistan except for non-combat humanitarian activities, and on activities leading to the withdrawal of American military forces from the country.[68]

National security[edit]

In 2011, Donnelly voted against H.R. 2219 which would have cut the U.S. military budget by $8.5 billion, stipulating that no cuts were to be taken from pay or benefit programs supporting members and veterans of the armed forces. These cuts would have reduced the emphasis of the U.S. budget on weapons programs.[69] Donnelly also voted against the failed Polis amendment, which would have cut $640 million in a 2% across-the-board reduction in spending from the 2012 United States Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill.[70] Donnelly voted in favor of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Civil liberties advocates have criticized Donnelly for voting for Section 1021, expanding authority to the President to detain suspected al-Qaeda, Taliban, or associated forces (including U.S. citizens) without a trial.[71] Donnelly has voted in support of reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act,[72] and requiring FISA warrants for wiretaps in the U.S., but not abroad.[73]

Gun laws[edit]

Donnelly is one of the few Democrats with an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA) for his consistent support of policies that the NRA supports.[74] He has commended the NRA for their work with children about gun safety.[75]

In 2007, he co-sponsored a bill that repealed the requirement in Washington, D.C., to have guns registered. It also repealed the ban on semi-automatic firearms and trigger locks. Two years later, in 2009, Donnelly supported a law that would enact concealed carry reciprocity across state lines.[75]

In 2013, Donnelly joined three other Senate Democrats in voting against the proposed ban on assault weapons.[76] He also voted to support expanded background checks that same year.[77]

In 2017, he participated in the Chris Murphy gun control filibuster, hoping to encourage Republicans to support gun reform to prevent suspected terrorists and convicted criminals from purchasing guns. Donnelly said: "I am a supporter of the Second Amendment. I'm also someone who believes it's reasonable for all of us to consider smart and responsible ways to reduce gun violence. Those things are not in opposition to each other.[78]


Donnelly opposes abortion. In 2011, he co-sponsored HR 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.[79] In 2015, Donnelly was one of only two Democratic Senators who voted to defund Planned Parenthood, the other Senator being Joe Manchin of West Virginia.[80] On March 30, 2017, Donnelly voted against H.J.Res. 43, which, when signed by President Trump,[81] nullified a pending federal regulation that would have disallowed states to withhold money from abortion providers.[82] In 2018, he was one of three Democratic Senators who voted to outlaw abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy.[83]

LGBT issues[edit]

Donnelly has an overall mixed voting record on LGBT rights, receiving a rating of 30% from the Human Rights Campaign in 2010.[84] In 2007, Donnelly cosponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but in 2009, he voted against the Matthew Shepard Act.[85][86] However, in October 2009, Donnelly voted for 2009-2010 Defense Appropriations, which included the Matthew Shepard Act, which expanded the federal hate crimes to include sexual orientation, gender identity and disabilities.[87] On May 27, 2010, Donnelly voted against repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell after military review and certification, though the next day, he voted for the 2010-2011 Defense Appropriation Authorizations bill which included a provision repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell.[88][89] In December 2010, Donnelly voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.[90] Donnelly was one of 17 Democratic Representatives to vote for H Amdt 1416 the Prohibits Use of Funds in Contravention of the Defense of Marriage Act in July 2012.[91] On April 5, 2013, Donnelly announced his support for same-sex marriage.[92] He received a rating of 80% from the Human Rights Campaign in 2017 for his time in the 114th Congress.[93]

Other issues[edit]

Donnelly voted against the DREAM Act on December 8, 2010.[94]

In 2013, Donnelly co-sponsored the Senate bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.[95]

In 2015, Donnelly voted for CISPA.[96]

Donnelly was one of four Democrats to vote against the Stream Protection Rule.[97]

Personal life[edit]

Donnelly with his wife and their two children.

Donnelly met his wife, Jill, while attending the University of Notre Dame, the two later married in 1979. They have two children.[98] As of 2013, Donnelly was ranked as the 74th wealthiest member of the U.S. Senate, with an estimated net worth of $781,504.[99]

Donnelly is a practicing Roman Catholic.[100]

Electoral history[edit]

Indiana's 2nd congressional district election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Chris Chocola (incumbent) 140,496 54.2%
Democratic Joe Donnelly 115,513 44.5%
Libertarian Douglas Barnes 3,346 1.3%
Turnout 259,355 62%
Republican hold Swing
Indiana's 2nd congressional district Democratic primary election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Joe Donnelly 30,589 83.0%
Democratic Steve Francis 6,280 17.0%
Turnout 36,869
Indiana's 2nd congressional district election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Joe Donnelly 103,561 54.0%
Republican Chris Chocola (incumbent) 88,300 46.0%
Turnout 191,861 44%
Democratic gain from Republican Swing
Indiana's 2nd congressional district election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Joe Donnelly (incumbent) 187,416 67.1%
Republican Luke Puckett 84,455 30.2%
Libertarian Mark Vogel 7,475 2.7%
Turnout 279,346 62%
Democratic hold Swing
Indiana's 2nd congressional district election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Joe Donnelly (incumbent) 91,341 48.2%
Republican Jackie Walorski 88,803 46.8%
Libertarian Mark Vogel 9,447 5.0%
Turnout 189,591 41%
Democratic hold Swing
Democratic United States Senatorial Primary Election in Indiana, 2012[101]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Joe Donnelly 207,715 100
Total votes 207,715 100
United States Senate election in Indiana, 2012 [102]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Joe Donnelly 1,281,181 50.04% +50.04%
Republican Richard Mourdock 1,133,621 44.28% -43.08%
Libertarian Andy Horning 145,282 5.67% -6.92%
No party Write-Ins 18 0 % n/a
Majority 147,560 5.76% -69.49%
Turnout 2,560,102 57.46% +26.24%
Democratic gain from Republican Swing


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  101. ^ "Indiana Primary Election, May 8, 2012-United States Senator". Secretary of State of Indiana. June 5, 2012. Retrieved June 9, 2012. 
  102. ^ "Election Results". Indiana of Secretary of State. November 28, 2012. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Chris Chocola
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Jackie Walorski
Party political offices
Preceded by
David Johnson
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Indiana
(Class 1)

Most recent
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Richard Lugar
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Indiana
Served alongside: Dan Coats, Todd Young
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Jeff Flake
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Chris Murphy