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Hill's future uncertain, but another try for Congress "unlikely"


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U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., faces a somewhat uncertain time in his life when his fifth term in Congress ends Jan. 2.

He’ll be out of office for the second time in six years, and he said it’s unlikely he’ll ever run for Congress again, and 99 percent likely he won’t seek a political office in the 2012 election cycle.

However, he has no intention of retiring from politics, and governor of Indiana remains the one job that has great appeal for him.

“I’m not going away from politics; it’s in my veins. Public service is a part of my life,” the 57-year-old Hill said by phone from Washington.

The Seymour native wants to continue to help the Democratic Party locally and nationally, but he said running for another office would depend on the circumstances.

“I’ve always wanted to be governor of Indiana someday, so that’s something to keep an eye on,” Hill said.

Focus on family

His more immediate plan is to find employment.

“I’m not a wealthy man, so it’s important to take care of my family,” Hill said.

Running for governor would require a full-time campaign, which would make providing for his family almost im-possible, he said.

Hill has had conversations with people about private-sector jobs in Washington and Seymour.

He also anticipates talking soon with President Obama about possibly working for him, maybe on Obama’s re-election campaign.

“The president said he would like to talk with me. Maybe Friday or the early part of next week I might get to-gether with him,” Hill said.

“I’m interested in having that conversation soon. I don’t know what he has in mind. I have a good relationship with the president.”

Whatever he decides, Hill said he has the support of his family, notably his wife, Betty, a retired school teacher who was his high school sweetheart and whom he married during his sophomore year of college at Furman Univer-sity, where he played collegiate basketball.

Hill also is excited about spending time with his granddaughter Josie, the daughter of Hill’s oldest child, Jennifer, who is pregnant with a second child.

Hill said he expects to make a decision about a job by the end of January so he can begin work in February.

Political future

After losing the 9th District seat to Republican Todd Young, Hill said on Election Night he probably wouldn’t seek that office again.

“There is more of a sense of satisfaction of accomplishment in this election for me and easier to let go than in 2004,” Hill explained, referring to his prior loss to Republican Mike Sodrel.

“There is a peace of accomplishment. I’m at peace with it all.”

He said getting fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles increased and pay-as-you-go budget rules passed into law are highlights, as was turning Jefferson Proving Ground into a national wildlife refuge.

However, Hill was disappointed that the cap-and-trade legislation that passed the House failed in the Senate.

“That would have put us on the path toward energy independence. In my opinion, we no longer would have been dependent on foreign oil if it had passed,” he said.

Running for U.S. Senate, something he attempted in 1990, is a consideration he won’t rule out, but running for governor has more appeal.

That’s because the governor is the executive of the state, not a member of a legislative body.

Hill noted he has experience as an executive. He ran a small business in Seymour and served as executive direc-tor of Indiana State Student Assistance Commission.

“You can get a whole lot more done as an executive,” Hill said.

The Indiana’s governor’s race in 2012 is wide open. U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., said he would not seek a return to the office he once held. Some political observers believe U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., a Columbus native, is weighing bids for governor and president. About a half-dozen names have been mentioned as possible gubernatorial candidates.

While running for governor in 2012 is unlikely for Hill, seeking the office in 2016 is too far ahead to consider.

“I don’t know if I will be alive in 2016,” Hill joked.

A run for governor would depend on if the time felt right, if he was in a good position financially and if “people think I would be a good candidate,” he said.

Whether he ever runs for office again, Hill intends to remain active in politics because of the competition and the rewards.

“I’m an athlete by nature, and politics has a competitive aspect, so I enjoy that element of it, the competition, the competition of ideas,” Hill explained.

“The most important thing in politics is the ability to make people’s lives better. When you affect people’s lives in a positive way, that’s a very fulfilling feeling.”

The 10 years in Congress have been rewarding, Hill said, because of the relationships he’s made among Democ-rats and Republicans — “I don’t really have any enemies here in Congress” — and the job with which he was en-trusted.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege,” he said.

Baron Hill file

WHO: Outgoing U.S. Representative for Indiana’s 9th District

PARTY: Democrat

AGE: 57

RESIDES: Seymour

BACKGROUND:

 Born, raised in Seymour

 1971 graduate of Seymour High School; standout athlete in basketball, football, track; member 1971 Indiana All-Star basketball team; elected to Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000

 1975 graduate of Furman University, with degree in history; played collegiate basketball

 Ran insurance and real estate business in Seymour 15 years

 Served eight years as state representative in Indiana General Assembly; first elected 1982

 Lost bid for U.S. Senate in 1990

 Executive director of Indiana State Student Assistance Commission

 Financial analyst for Merrill Lynch

 First elected to Congress 1998

CONGRESS:

 Served five terms (elected 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008)

 Member of Blue Dog Coalition (group of fiscally conservative Democrats in House); served as communications co-chair and co-chair for policy)

 Served on Agriculture, Armed Services, Joint Economic, Energy and Commerce, and Science and Technology committees; served on Anti-Terrorism and Military Readiness subcommittees

NOTABLE LEGISLATION:

 Authored the Smaller Schools, Stronger Communities Act, which was signed into law as part of President Bush’s education reform bill. Develops smaller schools, or schools within schools. Based on idea children learn better and are safer in schools with strong connections to other students, teachers and administration.

 Wrote legislation that was included in Energy Independence and Security Act, which passed in 2007 and increased fleetwide Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards by 40 percent, to 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

 Wrote property tax language that was inserted into larger bill that became law in 2008. Created new standard deduction for homeowners — up to $500 for individuals, $1,000 for families — who do not itemize deductions on federal income tax filings.

 Advocated for pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rules so new spending or tax cuts are not added to the federal deficit. President Obama signed this into law in February.

FAMILY: Wife, Betty; daughters, Jennifer, Cara, Elizabeth; one granddaughter

— Sources: baronhill.house.gov; hoopshall.com

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