Susan Brooks, the Republican candidate from Indiana’s 5th District, channels the understated conservatism of the state’s two-term governor, Mitch Daniels. Brooks eked out a 1-percentage-point victory over former Rep. David McIntosh in the Republican primary and easily beat her Democratic opponent in the general election. She will replace Republican Dan Burton, who is retiring after 30 years in Congress.
Brooks was born in Auburn, Ind., and raised in Fort Wayne, the state’s second-largest city. At Homestead High School, she played basketball, volleyball and tennis—and was also a member of the cheerleading squad. Her mother and father both worked at Homestead High School, which made for an adolescence that was “wonderful and miserable at the same time,” she said in an interview. “It was somewhat like growing up in a fishbowl.”
Brooks attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she pursued a joint degree in political science and sociology and was elected president of her sorority. She then earned a law degree from Indiana University and joined an Indianapolis-based criminal-defense practice, which exposed her to what she calls the “root causes” of crime, such as domestic strife and mental-health issues.
In 1998, Brooks was named deputy mayor of Indianapolis under Republican Mayor Stephen Goldsmith. At his behest, Brooks established the Indianapolis Violence Reduction Partnership, a multiagency collaboration designed to curb homicide, gun assaults, and armed robberies. In October 2001, Brooks was appointed U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana by President Bush. Over the next six years, she prosecuted drug kingpins, helped consolidate the Southern District’s counterterrorism apparatus, and drew attention to human trafficking, “something we really weren’t talking about in Indianapolis,” she said. In 2007, Brooks was appointed senior vice president and general counsel for Ivy Tech Community College, a statewide institution.
Brooks and her main rival for the Republican nomination, former Rep. David McIntosh, entered the race before Burton announced his retirement, which may have contributed to the congressman’s decision to endorse another candidate, Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold. Burton’s endorsement had no discernible impact on the race, however, and in the months leading up to the primary, Brooks and McIntosh each raised more than $500,000, outstripping the other candidates. McIntosh also received endorsements from a number of Republican power brokers outside Indiana, including antitax activist Grover Norquist, former Vice President Dan Quayle, former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, and the National Rifle Association.
In the end, McIntosh’s campaign was undone by questions about his residential status. A few years after relinquishing his seat in Congress to run for governor of Indiana, McIntosh moved his family to the Washington area to work as a lobbyist. At the same time, he continued to vote in Indiana, renting properties east of Indianapolis to maintain his residency. McIntosh was later absolved of any wrongdoing by a local election board, but not before he had lost the Republican primary. In a crowded field, Brooks prevailed with 30 percent of the vote.
Brooks’s opponent in the fall, Scott Reske, won the Democratic primary with 63 percent of the vote, but the state legislator and former Marine Corps officer had a hard time getting traction. The 5th District is one of the most Republican in the country, and Brooks had no trouble keeping this seat for the GOP.
Christopher Snow Hopkins