SOUTH BEND – If it were not for the coronavirus, Democrat primary voters would have gone to the polls last Tuesday to pick either Pat Hackett or Ellen Marks as their nominee to oppose Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, the 2nd District Republican incumbent.

The primary election is delayed until June 2. But the question that became so relevant in March remains for the Democratic contenders: How do you campaign for Congress during a pandemic?

Not the way they thought they would be campaigning. Instead, no rallies, fundraising events, debates, talks to service clubs, door-to-door campaigning, volunteers at phone banks. No open headquarters.

The Democratic contenders make the most of opportunities online and with techniques for visual gatherings. They hope to do more, perhaps TV ads and eventually more contacts with social distancing.

The two Democrats seeking the congressional nomination both are attorneys from South Bend.

They are different in terms of their law practices, their views on how to campaign against Walorski, their dealing with Donald Trump and their fundraising. They are:

Hackett, 60, with a South Bend law practice and with experience of running for the Democratic nomination in 2018. She finished second to nominee Mel Hall, who was soundly defeated by Walorski.

Marks, 53, law partner in corporate and finance departments of a large national firm, Latham & Watkins. She wasn’t involved in politics until the “terrifying” tone of Trump’s 2016 campaign caused her to decide she “couldn’t stay on the sidelines anymore.”

“I’m a peacemaker,” says Marks. She cites her style as a lawyer in seeking solutions where two sides are just shouting at each other. “I really don’t want to go out and say negative things about the president or Jackie Walorski,” she says. “I do want to talk about their records and leadership.”

Hackett doesn’t hesitate to say negative things about Trump and Walorski, blaming them for an ineffective response to the coronavirus, seeking to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and posing a threat to democracy. “Donald Trump and Jackie Walorski with him and Mike Pence do not represent the values of the district,” she says.

How do Marks and Hackett get along?

Well, their South Bend debate was cancelled, and they had only a few joint appearances before the coronavirus shut-down. They don’t engage in personal attacks in telephone interviews. They do talk of differences.

Marks describes their relationship as “cordial but not warm.” She says Hackett was very displeased when she told her about deciding to seek the nomination.

Hackett says having a primary opponent is “not helpful.” She says it will require spending more in the primary “against an opponent who would not be an effective opponent of Jackie Walorski.”

Fundraising is different. Hackett counts on small individual contributions and won’t take money from corporate PACs. She says Marks is too dependent on big contributions from lawyers from outside the district, adding a description that “Ellen is a Chicago lawyer.”

Marks says she is proud of contributions from lawyers she has dealt with, some on opposing sides, and adds that her experience in global finance is a better qualification for Congress than Hackett’s as “a family lawyer.”

On health care, Marks says her views are similar to those expressed in presidential debates by Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, saving and expanding the Affordable Care Act and preserving a private-plan option for those who want it in achieving universal coverage. Hackett says she is for universal health care but won’t get into labels such as “Medicare for all.” She does label Walorski as damaging health by “voting 60 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”

“We are very different people,” Marks says. “But our policies are very similar. It’s not a battle, just two options.” Hackett agrees they are very different - including with policies.  

Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.