The Democratic National Convention began Tuesday, but the party's Indiana Senate candidate isn't joining his colleagues in Charlotte, N.C.
U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, thought it was more important to spend the week in the state where he's trying win a Senate seat that Republicans have held for the past 35 years.
"I've got better things to do than go down there," Donnelly told an Indianapolis television station Tuesday. "I've got a chance to be here in Indiana."
On Monday, Donnelly campaigned at Labor Day events throughout southern Indiana. On Tuesday, he spoke at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis.
His wife, Jill, is attending the convention and addressed Indiana delegates Wednesday morning.
A spokesman for Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for Senate, said Donnelly is just trying to distance himself from President Barack Obama.
"To kind of distance himself now and act like he's not a Democrat is an unfortunate, cynical exercise, and we're not gonna let him get away with it," said Brose McVey, Mourdock's deputy campaign manager.
McVey said Donnelly has supported most of Obama's legislative agenda, including the $787 billion economic stimulus package in 2009 and the health care overhaul in 2010. He said Donnelly also has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in support from Democratic heavyweights, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Donnelly's campaign responded that his record shows he's been an independent moderate during his three terms in Congress. For example, Donnelly opposed Obama on the issue of cap and trade, and he has supported extending the lower, Bush-era tax rates for Americans at all income levels.
"Joe has opposed the president more than 30 percent of the time and broke with his party more than all but six Democrats in Congress," Elizabeth Shappell, Donnelly's communications director, wrote in an e-mail.
Donnelly isn't the only Democratic House or Senate candidate who opted not to travel to Charlotte this week. Other candidates from areas where Obama isn't popular also are staying home.
NBC News reported earlier this week that Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana aren't going to the convention. Heidi Heitkamp, who is running for an open seat in North Dakota, is skipping it as well.
Mourdock also didn't attend the Republican National Convention last week in Tampa, Fla.
McVey said Mourdock decided not to go to the convention partly because Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stopped in Evansville earlier in August. Romney endorsed Mourdock during that visit.
Staff writer Kevin Allen: