Black U.S. House candidate in Indiana says she's being harassed, intimidated

(Reuters) - The candidate running against U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s brother for a congressional seat in Indiana said on Thursday that people had made repeated threats and attempted to intimidate her and her campaign staff.

“It’s a shame ... that we are at this point in time in our country and in our state,” said Jeannine Lee Lake, a Black Democratic House candidate, during a news conference on Thursday. “I will not be intimidated. I’m not going to back down. I am here to stay.”

She said she was fearful for her safety after the windows of her campaign’s recreational vehicle were smashed and license plates, campaign magnets and her personal cell phone stolen earlier this month.

Lake, one of three Black congressional candidates in the state, also said that she had received harassing phone calls and packages that included personal information about her family in August after her address and personal information was posted on social media.

Lake is running to unseat Representative Greg Pence in a rematch for a heavily Republican congressional district in Indiana. In 2018, when Lake and Pence last faced off, Pence, a Republican, won handily with 64% of the vote. Mike Pence held the seat from 2003 to 2013.

Lake said she reported the incidents to the police. The sheriff’s department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Greg Pence’s chief of staff Kyle Robertson said the campaign supports a full investigation by the Delaware County prosecutor for all these allegations.

“Congressman Pence would not condone any sort of this type of behavior,” he said.

The alleged incidents come amid a national reckoning on racism and injustice, spurred by the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes and prevented him from breathing.

Lake, a former journalist, has not shied away from talking about racism in her campaign against Pence. She has criticized Greg Pence for opposing a policing reform bill named after Floyd and for the sale of objects with racist depictions of Black Americans at an antique mall Pence co-owns.

Lake is also one of 130 Black congressional candidates, the largest number in a given year, according to the Center for American Women and Politics and Higher Heights Leadership Fund, an organization that pushes for more Black women to participate in politics.

Black women have historically had one of the highest voter participation rates, but have been underrepresented in Congress, statewide executive roles and as mayors.

Tensions around the 2020 U.S. election are high, with Americans casting ballots in early-voting places at a dizzying pace. U.S. security officials have warned that violent domestic extremists may threaten next month’s election.

Reporting by Makini Brice in Washington and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Aurora Ellis