Brooks focused on addressing mental health, school safety in re-election campaign


As the U.S. Representative for Indiana’s Fifth District, Susan Brooks serves residents in the state’s largest city, several booming suburbs and many rural areas. She sees her constituents as a “microcosm of the country,” but beneath their diverse lifestyles she sees many shared underlying needs and concerns. She hopes to continue working to address them by being re-elected Nov. 6 to the seat she’s held since taking office in 2013.

“Addiction, mental health, and safety and security are issues I think transcend urban, suburban, rural,” she said, adding that the economy also is on that list.

Brooks, a Carmel resident and former U.S. attorney and deputy mayor of Indianapolis, is facing a challenger i Dee Thornton, another Carmel resident who is a businesswoman and first-time candidate. Brooks believes her experience and track record in Congress set her apart from her Democratic opponent.

Brooks (Photo by Mark Ambrogi)

“I think the district wants people who not only say they’re willing to reach across the aisle but who actually do, and that’s not easy,” she said. “You have to take time, effort and develop the relationships. I’ve got those relationships.”

The Lugar Center-McCourt School Bipartisan Index has ranked Brooks as the most bi-partisan member of Congress from the Indiana delegation, a designation she is proud of and hopes to retain. In the most recent legislative session, she worked with Democrats to craft bills dealing with biodefense threats, firearms and the opioid epidemic.

She also – quite unexpectedly – became a leader in addressing allegations of sexual abuse and assault as chairwoman of the House Committee on Ethics, she said.

“The #MeToo movement came to Congress, also. It’s not just in Hollywood and other workplaces,” she said. “In my role as chair of ethics, I’ve had to lead a group of people who’ve had to initiate investigations against our own members or their offices.”

Another issue that recently came to the forefront in the 5th District is school safety after a student opened fire May 25 at Noblesville West Middle School, injuring a student and teacher. Brooks co-founded the School Safety Caucus in 2015 with Democrat Rick Larsen of Washington.

“I have worked to try to be a leader on school safety issues, never dreaming that it would happen in my own backyard here in Noblesville,” she said. “We’ve learned from Noblesville and I try to continue to share those practices not only in the 5th District but in the country.”

Brooks said she understands that many people are often frustrated with the seeming dysfunction of the political process in Washington, D.C., but she said she aims to stay out of the chaos and focus on working with others to make laws that address 5th District issues.

“I have tried to be a strong voice of civility in Congress,” Brooks said. “I think we need more of that in public service and in our communities.”

Brooks and her husband, David, have two adult children.

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Connect with Your Congresswoman

U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks doesn’t hold town hall meetings, which has led to criticism from some of her constituents. Instead, since 2013 she’s hosted “Connect with Your Congresswoman” events that allow 5th District residents to meet with her one-on-one or in small groups.

“My colleagues have shared that usually only the loudest people take over town halls. I want to engage and listen to people or answer their questions, and I have found particularly in this incredibly polarized and often very angry environment that I learn a lot more from them and they learn from me if we’re having a conversation,” Brooks said. “I don’t think conversations happen in town hall settings in the manner in which I think is most productive.”

Brooks schedules events in all eight counties in the 5th District. They often last for hours, she said, and there have been times when she didn’t get to meet with everyone who came because the building closed for the night.

“I was there until the very end, and we learned that we needed to maybe set them earlier,” she said.

Learn more about the events at


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