When Victoria Spartz was born in the Soviet Union 42 years ago, her country was my enemy. As an American soldier during the Cold War the greatest threat to the Constitution I was sworn to protect was the USSR and its expansionist policies under the Brezhnev doctrine.
But in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down and shortly thereafter, Ukraine, among other Soviet republics, threw off the yoke of communist tyranny. One of the beneficiaries of the new birth of Ukrainian freedom was then teen-aged Victoria Spartz. But freedom did not automatically make things better for her and her family. Years of socialist dictatorship had left her country and its citizens impoverished. Free medical care for all meant almost no medical care for anyone and her father died at a young age.
But Victoria was smart and worked hard so she was able to earn an undergraduate degree in economics and a masters degree in business administration at Kyiv National Economic University before marrying her husband, Jason, and emigrating to the United States.
Since arriving in her adopted country, Victoria continued her break-neck pace, becoming a CPA, founding successful businesses with her husband and raising two daughters all the while embracing all things American, particularly its political system.
When Luke Kenley stepped down as my state senator in 2017 in favor of Victoria, I will admit I was disappointed. I knew Luke deserved a break, but he’d been such a great legislator, I wasn’t quite ready to let him go. Victoria quickly changed my mind.
While most freshman senators spend their time figuring out where their desk is, where the committee rooms are and how the voting process works Victoria expected a lot more out of herself. She quickly gained a reputation for her expertise and openness and was frequently asked to cosponsor and even write legislation. It is telling that when I met with Greg Walker of the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee, his first comment was, “We sure need Victoria back in the senate.”
While I appreciate the senator’s sentiment, it’s my considered opinion we need her more in the U.S. House of Representatives.
What makes Victoria unique as a politician is her willingness to listen to new ideas and her sincere desire for input from her constituents. I met Victoria at a political event put on by a professional organization. It was one of those “meet and greet” events where office holders generally come by, have a drink and then leave. Victoria stayed for more than two hours discussing health care reform while her young daughter sat nearby, quietly reading a book.
A month later, Victoria invited me down to the State House to continue our discussion. Then she invited me to testify before the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee in support of her bill calling for wide ranging studies to improve and lower the cost of health care in Indiana. Normally when politicians ask someone to testify in support of their bill, they have an idea of what they want said. When I asked what Victoria what she wanted me to say, her response was simple: “Tell the committee what you told me. Tell them the truth.”
And that’s when my former enemy really became my champion. We need someone in Washington who hasn’t been jaded by a career in politics, who has seen the evils of socialism and who will openly seek the advice of her constituents.
Senator Walker said his only concern about Victoria going to Washington is that the city might hurt her.
“Victoria really believes in the system,” he said, “and the system in Washington is broken.”
Senator Walker knows Victoria better than I do, but from the few meetings I’ve had with her, Victoria is more likely to change Washington than Washington is to change her.
Christopher S. Barnthouse, Major, US Army (retired)