Brad Ellsworth

John Bradley “Brad” Ellsworth (born September 11, 1958) is an American politician who was the U.S. Representative for Indiana’s 8th congressional district from 2007 to 2011. In 2010, he was the Democratic candidate for a seat in the United States Senate, but he was defeated by Dan Coats, a former Senator, by 55% to 40%.

Early life and education

Ellsworth was born in Jasper, Indiana, the son of Margaret (née Scherle) and Jim Ellsworth. He spent his early years in Huntingburg, Indiana. When he was still in grade school, his family moved to Evansville, where his father took a job as a crane operator in Warrick County’s Alcoa plant. He is the youngest of four, his brothers Eric and Joe and his sister Lisa. His brother Eric is the president and CEO of the YMCA of greater Indianapolis. His brother Joe is a founding partner and president of Fire & Rain Marketing/Communications headquartered in Evansville.

After graduation from William Henry Harrison High School in 1976, he attended Indiana State University-Evansville (now the University of Southern Indiana) where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology, and became a member of Sigma Tau Gamma. Ellsworth worked in the paint and hardware department at Sears while in school to pay for his education. He later received a Masters Degree in Criminology from Indiana State University. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology also gave him an honorary doctorate of humane letters at their 2008 commencement.

Law enforcement career

In 1982, Ellsworth began a career in the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Department. Over the next 23 years, he held every merit rank, and was twice decorated for heroism in the line of duty. While serving in the Department, Brad Ellsworth instituted the first Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program in the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation. He later attended and graduated from the FBI National Academy.

In 1998, Ellsworth ran for sheriff and won by a large margin.He was unopposed running for a second term. In 2005 he announced his intention to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for Indiana’s 8th Congressional District, which was held by six-term incumbent John Hostettler.

U.S. House of Representatives

Congressman Brad Ellsworth

Ellsworth is a conservative Democrat with a populist streak. He opposes abortion and gun control. Ellsworth also represented a socially conservative swath of Indiana. However, on economic issues, Ellsworth usually votes more with the Democratic party. After his election to Congress, he joined the Blue Dog Coalition.

Ellsworth voted against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 in January of that year.He voted for the final version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

He was one of 16 Democrats who voted against providing federal funds for embryonic stem cell research

Ellsworth condemned the National Right to Life Committee for not supporting the extension of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover more families. While Ellsworth voted against an earlier version of the bill, he joined the other nine signatories in voting for the final bill.

In November 2009, Ellsworth wrote an amendment restricting federal funding for elective abortions. Americans United for Life asserted that this language does not eliminate the public funding of abortion in the House bill, but instead only requires said federal subsidies to be separately disbursed by an independent contractor. Ellsworth later voted for the Stupak Amendment. He eventually voted for the Senate language of the healthcare bill lacking the Stupak Amendment’s anti-abortion language.

In July 2007, Ellsworth designated $2 million to extend the John T. Myers lock chamber on the Ohio River and $750,000 for manufacturing and engineering equipment for the University of Southern Indiana. Two other projects Ellsworth brought to southwestern Indiana were the construction of a campus perimeter road system at USI for $350,000 and a portion of University Parkway construction also at $350,000.

Smaller projects for which Ellsworth gained House approval include $200,000 to restore Evansville’s Alhambra Theater, $135,000 for emergency warning sirens in Vanderburgh County and $75,000 to train utility workers at Ivy Tech Community College.

LGBT issues

In April 2009, Ellsworth voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Committee assignments
Committee on Agriculture
Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy, and Research
Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management
Committee on Armed Services
Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces
Subcommittee on Terrorism and Unconventional Threats
Committee on Small Business
Subcommittee on Contracting and Technology
Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight
Political campaigns

Parade for Ellsworth

As of June 30, 2006, Hostettler had raised $287,000 and had $195,000 on hand, compared to Ellsworth’s $1,036,000 raised and $676,000 on hand. However, Hostettler had won campaigns in the past against opponents with more funding. In addition, the National Republican Congressional Committee had spent $163,000 in his district as of mid-July 2006. (The DCCC, its counterpart, had spent $166,000 for Ellsworth as of that date.)

The Cook Political Report, an independent non-partisan newsletter, listed the race as a toss-up as of mid-August. As of early September, the Rothenberg Political Report called Hostettler one of the three most endangered House incumbents in the country; Chris Cillizza, political analyst for The Washington Post, ranked Hostettler as the most vulnerable House incumbent in the nation; and Robert D. Novak, a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report, also rated Hostettler’s seat a likely win for Ellsworth.

In mid-October, an opinion poll commissioned by the Evansville Courier & Press showed Ellsworth leading Hostettler, 55% to 32%.

Hostettler debated Ellsworth on October 23, 2006. The debate was at public television station WVUT at Vincennes University, and involved the League of Women Voters.

Ellsworth scored a landslide victory over Hostettler on November 7, 2006. He took 61% of the vote to Hostettler’s 39% – by far the most lopsided defeat for an incumbent in the 2006 election. Ellsworth’s victory was the first of 30 seats that the Democrats took from the Republicans in the cycle.


Two years later, on November 4, 2008, Ellsworth won reelection, easily defeating Republican candidate Greg Goode 65% to 35%.

2010 U.S. Senate campaign

On February 19, 2010, Ellsworth announced his candidacy in the 2010 U.S. Senate election for the seat in the United States Senate held by Democrat Evan Bayh, who was retiring.  Since Bayh made his announcement the day before the deadline for filing for the primary, no Democrat was able to gather a sufficient number of signatures to qualify for the primary ballot, forcing the Democratic state committee to choose the Senate nominee. Ultimately, the committee chose Ellsworth.

He was defeated in the November election by Dan Coats, who had previously held the seat from 1989 to 1999, taking 40 percent of the vote. Ellsworth even lost his own congressional district; he only carried two counties in that district, Vigo (home to Terre Haute) and Vanderburgh.

Following his defeat, Ellsworth joined Evansville-based Vectren Corp. as president of its Indiana gas utility division.

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