INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana Democrats say a jump in new candidates on the May 8 primary ballot
is a sign that they could cut into large Republican majorities in the state
House and Senate that have left them largely powerless over the past six
meanwhile, will decide numerous contested races, with candidates including
the wife and son of former GOP congressmen among those seeking legislative
Here's a look at
some key primary races involving half of the seats in the 50-member Indiana
Senate and all 100 seats in the Indiana House:
OPEN SEAT SCRUMS
legislators decided not to seek new terms this year, leading to packed
primary fields for some of the eight open House seats now held by
Republicans and five House seats being given up by Democratic incumbents.
Those races feature
some well-known names, such as Republican Matt Hostettler, the son of former
U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, who is seeking an open GOP seat in the Evansville
area, running against a Vanderburgh County commissioner and a retired
dentist who narrowly lost a 2010 legislative election.
Another is Christy
Stutzman, the wife of former U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, for a seat from
northern Indiana's Elkhart County. Marlin Stutzman lost a 2016 Republican
primary U.S. Senate bid amid ethics concerns from an Associated Press
investigation into the spending of campaign money on hotels, meals and at
least one family trip.
Former Vigo County
Council member Mark Bird, an older brother of Basketball Hall of Famer Larry
Bird, is among five Democratic primary candidates for Terre Haute district
now held by their party. Gary City Council member Ragen Hatcher, the
daughter of former longtime Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher, is one of two
candidates seeking the Democratic bid to succeed 18-term Democratic Rep.
Mike Delph of Carmel, who's drawn attention for his outspoken support of
tougher immigration restrictions and against recognizing gay marriage, is
facing a tough primary fight for his suburban Indianapolis seat. Challenger
Corrie Meyer is a former Carmel redevelopment director who has the backing
of Carmel's mayor and five other current or former Republican mayors in or
near the district.
GOP Sen. Travis
Holdman of Markle is considered a possible candidate to replace retiring
Senate President Pro Tem David Long of Fort Wayne as the Senate's top
Republican. But he first faces a primary challenge from Adams County
Councilman Eric Orr in a rural district just south of Fort Wayne.
Indiana House Republican primaries are something of a proxy fight over
tactics by anti-abortion groups.
The group Hoosiers
for Life is backing challenger William Carlin against Rep. Ben Smaltz of
Auburn, whom it has criticized for not allowing the House committee he leads
to consider a bill aimed at banning abortions in the state. Smaltz has been
endorsed by the larger and better-known Indiana Right to Life group, but
Hoosiers for Life has described him as "a wolf in sheep's clothing,
pretending to be 'pro-life.'"
The sponsor of that
abortion-ban bill, Rep. Curt Nisly of Goshen, faces a primary matchup
against Kosciusko County Council member Kimberly Cates. Indiana Right to
Life hasn't endorsed either candidate.
nearly two-thirds more candidates seeking legislative nominations this year
than they did in the last midterm election four years ago. They ended up
with candidates on the November 2014 election ballot in only 68 House
districts and 16 Senate districts. They already have candidates in 83 House
districts and 19 Senate districts, with time to fill ballot vacancies after
By holding more
than two-thirds of the seats in each legislative chamber since the 2012
election, Republicans have enough clout to pass bills even if all Democrats
were to boycott votes. Democrats need to add four House seats to break the
current 70-30 Republican supermajority, while the GOP's 41-9 Senate margin
means Democrats must pick up at least eight seats.
Party Chairman John Zody says the party has seen more interest from
millennials and women in running for offices and greater enthusiasm among
Democrats since President Donald Trump's 2016 election. He said Democrats
will be emphasizing the importance of gaining legislative seats to influence
state policy on issues such as education funding, improvements to the
Department of Child Services and redistricting reform.
"We say we need to
pick up seats and come on and help us do that," Zody said. "We're going to
pick up as many as we can and we think in the process of doing that we can
break the supermajority."
Mike Murphy, a
former Republican legislator from Indianapolis and past Marion County GOP
chairman, didn't discount the greater enthusiasm among Democrats spurred by
opposition to Trump, but while the size of the GOP legislative majorities
could be cut he said that doesn't necessarily mean a big wave for Democrats.
particularly at the legislative level, is very, very local," he said. "It is
very much based on personalities and who is seen in the community and who do