Politics

Todd Rokita on the Most Important Part of His Driving Memo

Roll Call rides with Indiana Republican as he campaigns for Senate

Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita talks with guests at the Kosciusko County Republican Fish Fry in Warsaw, Ind., on April 4. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita has a reputation for driving hundreds of miles a day during his statewide Senate campaigns.

The day this reporter was with him last week, the Republican lawmaker was on track to put 500 miles on his unmarked white Chevrolet Tahoe, a surplus police vehicle he bought for the campaign. (He went with Crown Victorias for his two earlier campaigns for Indiana secretary of state.) 

Rokita’s also known for being a demanding and sometimes abrasive boss, and nowhere did that come through better than in the leaked eight-page memo about how he likes to be chauffeured. Politico first reported on the memo last summer, a week after he announced his campaign for the GOP Senate nomination. 

Rokita is locked in a heated primary with fellow Rep. Luke Messer and former state Rep. Mike Braun. The winner of the May 8 primary will take on Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in November. Braun even alluded to Rokita’s demands on his driver in his most recent ad, a 30-second version of which is debuting on statewide TV Wednesday. 

Watch: Rokita Responds to Driving Memo

The memo that was leaked last year was officially titled “Instructions on Staffing and Driving — District Version.” It told drivers to, among other things, have black coffee ready for the congressman, notify him of any turns, don’t let him be photographed with a drink in his hand, make sure he has his wallet, and stock and transport a box of supplies known as “the football.” According Politico, its content was supposed to include: “gum, hand sanitizer, business cards, bottled water, napkins and Kleenex, lozenges, a stapler and stapler remover, Post-it notes and Shout wipes.” 

From the front seat of the Tahoe last week, Rokita turned around and pointed to the back, where two rubber containers sat side-by-side in the trunk. “One’s what I would need for the campaign trail; one’s what I would need for the official office,” he said. 

Above the containers hung a metal bar for hangers and spare clothes. 

“At least I’m changing clothes,” Rokita laughed. 

He answered some questions about the most important part of the memo in the video above. (We’re still wondering about the purpose of the staple remover, though.)

Also in the memo? Guidance not to distract the congressman with chatter in the car and not to let him talk to “any reporters for more than the allotted time.” 

Rokita was on his best behavior during a drive with this reporter in northern Indiana, joking with his driver and campaign communications director.

My whole life is run by 20-somethings,” he said of the staffers around him. 

Rokita loves what he calls “windshield time,” and he has lots of thoughts about the best places to stop on the road. (Speedway isn’t the best or the cleanest, he says, but it’s the most numerous.) But like many candidates, he also uses time on the road for his least favorite task: fundraising. 

He’d stashed a pile of fundraising call sheets on the dashboard. They were arranged for the day in time-zone order so that he can call people out West  as it gets later in the day. 

Who gets the credit for that? “Well, I have a memo,” Rokita chuckled. 

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