Indiana’s newest United States Senator took time to visit some constituents who sent him to Washington, D.C., by stopping by New Albany Monday morning.

Sen. Mike Braun [R-Indiana] held a gathering at The Olivet, 137 E. Market St., to meet and speak with local voters.

During his visit, Braun said that New Albany isn’t much different than his hometown of Jasper, which sits about 75 miles east off of Interstate 64.

“You’re so much like Jasper,” Braun told the News and Tribune. “You’ve got a healthy downtown. You’ve got active individuals in the community. I can tell that. I’ve been down here several times. Just rolling in today with the work you’ve got going on, it looks vibrant. To me, small-town America is the heartbeat of the country. That’s where I come from, so I talk about it all the time.”

After spending some time shaking hands with attendees, Braun gave a short speech then fielded questions from constituents. Topics of conversation included climate change, the health care system and tariffs, which have been omnipresent in the news as President Donald Trump has sparred with China over trade.

Hearing from constituents back home, Braun said, helps steer his decisions on Capitol Hill.

“They’re fed up with business as usual there,” Braun said. “They like the fact that our president is shaking the system and want to make sure he gets re-elected. You’ve got guys like me there that know what’s important. You’ve seen enough of what I’m going to do, and I’m on great committees, so I’m in a position as a freshman senator to really make a difference.”

Local education executive Andrew Takami, who ran against Braun in the Republican Primary, said it’s been a privilege getting to know Braun, adding that he “supports him wholeheartedly.” The fact that Braun took time to have a thoughtful conversation with those he serves, Takami said, was a pleasure to witness.

“As a resident of Floyd County and as a member of the Republican Party, it is exciting whenever you work diligently to get people elected for public service and then they actually come back to celebrate what they’re seeing in Washington,” Takami said. “Whenever we have members of Congress or the president come back and tell us what they’re doing, it’s exciting. At the end of the day, this is a representative republic. It is impossible for everyone to see what is going on on the front lines, but we elect people like Mike Braun to do it for us. When he comes back and gives an honest dialogue and speaks from the heart rather than bullet points from his staff, it allows us to see him in a very genuine sort of way.”

Takami said that Braun’s background in the auto industry gives him a more thorough understanding of issues like tariffs. That knowledge, he added, comes in handy with how convoluted the details can become.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty. People don’t know much about that subject, but he does,” Takami said. “I’ve seen him on a lot of television networks explaining the fact that we might have some short-term issues, but long-term success will come out of it. He’s really well-suited in that because of his business.”

From a local perspective, Chris Coyle — whose family has found generational success in the auto industry — noted that he’s in support of the long-term goals of the tariffs, but he is wary of the potential consequences. Coyle added that through his conversations with Braun at events like Monday’s and larger gatherings like those held by the National Automobile Dealers Association, he feels comfortable with Braun’s approach.

“Tariffs in my business represent about $2,800 per car.” Coyle said. “It’s actually about $3,800 on cars that are imported from overseas to the United States and about $1,800 for cars that are built in the United States, since the parts are shipped in. It nets out right there in the middle. The average car payment right now is about $560 a month. We look at that as a potential $18 to $20 per $1,000 increase, which is approximately $50 to $60 a month on the cost of buying a car. What that does is knocks people down from what they need as opposed to what they can afford. It really has a big impact on our business, so we’re watching it in the industry.”

Though Coyle said he and other dealers have been able to shield themselves from the effects of the tariffs up to this point, he will be keeping an eye on how his business is impacted.

“I’ve told Mike the car business represents 20 percent of the whole GDP in this country,” Coyle said. “What I don’t want to see is the government playing chicken with the biggest single driver of the industry. It’s been in the news, but they’ve delayed it and delayed it. So far, we’ve been able to litigate ourselves out of being affected by tariffs. Overall, I agree with what this country’s doing, because we need fair trade. It’s short-term pain for long-term gain, and we need the long-term gain. I support what the administration is doing, but you have to make sure it doesn’t affect your business.”