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|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Indiana's 2nd district
January 3, 2003 - January 3, 2007
|Tim Roemer (Redistricting)|
Joseph Christopher Chocola
February 24, 1962
Jackson, Michigan, U.S.
|Residence||Bristol, Indiana, U.S.|
|Education||Hillsdale College (B.A.)|
Thomas M. Cooley Law School (J.D.)
|Occupation||Banking executive, agribusiness executive, attorney|
Joseph Christopher Chocola (born February 24, 1962) is an American businessman, lawyer, and former politician. A member of the Republican Party, Chocola served in the United States House of Representatives from 2003 to 2007, representing Indiana's 2nd congressional district.
In 2002, Chocola ran for the U.S. House, defeating former Democratic congresswoman Jill Long Thompson. Chocola was a member of the Agriculture, Small Business, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Ways and Means committees. In 2004, he defeated lawyer and then-Mishawaka Marian School Board President Joe Donnelly, later losing in a rematch against Donnelly in 2006.
Chocola was born in Jackson, Michigan. He grew up in Michigan, graduating from Williamston High School in 1980. He graduated in 1984 from Hillsdale College, in Hillsdale, Michigan, with a double major in business administration and political economy. While at Hillsdale College he joined the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. After graduation, he went to work at Society National Bank, now known as KeyBank, which had recruited him into its management program in Cleveland. At the time when he left to go to law school, he was employed as a foreign exchange trader for the bank.
Chocola attended law school classes at night at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, in Lansing, Michigan, while working as a credit manager for his family's business, Chocola Cleaning Materials. He graduated in 1988.
In 1988, Chocola was hired as corporate counsel by CTB International in Milford, Indiana, a manufacturer of products for the poultry, egg, swine, and grain production industries, which his grandfather, Howard Brembeck, had founded. He initially managed all the legal aspects of the business as corporate counsel. He then held various management positions until he was named CEO in 1994. In April 1999, he left the CEO position to become chairman of the board.
In August 2002, CTB International was sold to Berkshire Hathaway, the investment firm of billionaire Warren Buffett. The Chocola family received 55% of the $140 million paid to shareholders of the company.
In the 2000 election, Chocola made an unsuccessful bid for Congress in what was then Indiana's 3rd congressional district, losing to incumbent Democrat Timothy J. Roemer by a 52-47% margin. In that campaign, Chocola spent more than $1 million, including $465,000 of his own money.
In the October 8, 2000, edition of the Elkhart Truth, an Elkhart, Indiana newspaper, Chocola was quoted as saying that "Bush's plan of individual investment of 2 percent of the money is a start. Eventually, I'd like to see the entire Social Security system privatized. It's not a 'risky scheme'." In late October, after Roemer had featured that statement in political ads, Chocola said, "There is no one proposing, including me, a plan of total privatization." The newspaper, saying Chocola had made his statement in meeting its editorial board, refused to retract the story. Roemer refused to stop running the ad despite Chocola's contention that the quotation was taken out of context.
Roemer retired after his 2001-2003 term. In 2002, Chocola ran again for the open seat, which had been renumbered as the 2nd District after redistricting. In November, he defeated former Congresswoman Jill Long Thompson by a 51-46 margin with 188,446 votes cast, in a race that included campaign appearances by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other top Republicans, to assist his bid.
In 2004, Chocola defeated Democrat Joe Donnelly by a 54-45% margin with 259,355 votes cast, in an election where Bush received 56 percent of the district's vote. In that race, Chocola outspent Donnelly $1.4 million to $700,000. Chocola was assisted by a fundraising visit from Vice President Dick Cheney during the campaign.
Chocola defeated Tony Zirkle, an attorney, Navy veteran, and frequent candidate, in the Republican primary on May 2, 2006 by 70% to 30%. In the November general election, Chocola lost to Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly, whom he had defeated in 2004, by a 54-46% margin with 191,861 votes cast.
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According to a profile by the Associated Press, "Chocola is a strong supporter of President Bush". The two do differ on some positions, such as illegal immigration. Chocola has supported (against the President's position) the "tough enforcement first" House version of changes in immigration law, in opposition to the President's calls for a guest worker program.
In January 2006, Chocola said that great strides were being made in transitioning Iraq from military coalition to police control. He said it was too early to predict when the job will be done.