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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Brooks’ work on behalf of GOP will continue even after she retires

Fort Wayne native Susan Brooks is a case in point of how women can and have made an impact in politics. She is currently serving her fourth term as Indiana’s 5th District representative in Washington.

Some Democrats, however, are responding to her announcement Friday that she will not run for re-election next year by criticizing her decision.

“In a party whose leadership continually marginalizes women’s voices, losing Congresswoman Brooks, who was working hard to recruit women to run for office, underscores the problem Washington Republicans have created for themselves,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos said in a statement Friday.

First, we disagree that the GOP marginalizes women’s voices. Second, we disagree that Brooks leaving political office after four terms underscores any such problem with the recruitment of women to run for office.

Brooks, 58, was born and raised in Fort Wayne, graduated from Homestead High School, earned a B.A. degree from Miami University of Ohio and a J.D. law degree from Indiana University.

She practiced law, served as deputy mayor of Indianapolis and was appointed U.S. attorney by George W. Bush, among other things, before winning election to Congress in 2012 to represent Indiana’s 5th District, which stretches from the north side of Indianapolis into the northern suburbs and into counties north and east.

She was considered a potential candidate for Indiana governor to replace Mike Pence when he was selected as Donald Trump’s running mate for the 2016 presidential election. But the state’s Republican Party went with Eric Holcomb, Pence’s preferred successor.

Brooks was ranked among the top 15 percent of House Republicans in terms of effectiveness during the last Congress, according to the nonpartisan Center for Effective Lawmaking.

Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue University Fort Wayne, said Brooks’ “constituent service work is quite good. She did have seats on some meaningful committees and did some work that was important.”

Brooks is one of only 13 Republican women in Congress at a time when the number of Democrat women in the House has spiked to 89. She was heavily involved in recruiting and mentoring Republican women long before being named recruitment chair for the National Republican Congressional Committee this term. And she says she intends to fulfill that responsibility through next year.

Brooks told GQ Roll Call that the biggest institutional barrier to women running for office is just the mindset that there are barriers. While she concedes that big Republican donors have historically given more money to male candidates than female candidates, she said women simply need to make their own case to those donors.

“Women need to get more comfortable touting their accomplishments,” she said, “and touting their skills, and promoting themselves.”

She said she is retiring because she wants to be able to spend more time with her family. Serving in Congress is demanding work, she told The Associated Press, and she’s “ready to focus on the people who’ve done so much to support and care for me throughout my career,” such as her husband, David, their two children, and other family and friends.

“I believe in term limits and in the power of new talent,” she said in a statement.

And she told Roll Call her retirement is not indicative of where the party is going. Already this year, 172 women have talked to the NRCC about running for office. And Brooks says not having to campaign for her own re-election will give her even more time to recruit good candidates.

We believe it’s up to Republican women to believe in themselves and step into the political arena.

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