INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Young’s name is staying on the ballot for
Indiana’s open U.S. Senate seat after a tie vote Friday by the state
The board voted 2-2
along party lines after hearing arguments from attorneys for the state
Democratic Party and tea party-backed GOP Rep. Marlin Stutzman that Young’s
campaign didn’t submit enough petition signatures to meet state requirements
to appear on the May primary ballot.
The Indiana race
could have national implications as Democrats seek a net gain of four Senate
seats to retake the majority from Republicans. That would require the
Democratic nominee for president to win in November and allow the vice
president to break Senate ties. Until the issue over Young’s eligibility for
the ballot emerged, Republicans were seen as having a good chance of holding
onto the seat of GOP Sen. Dan Coats, who is retiring.
hearing grew heated at times and devolved into multiple shouting matches
between Young’s attorney and Vice Chairman Anthony Long, the board’s ranking
“Can you answer the
damn question?” Long shouted at attorney David Brooks at one point before
the meeting was gaveled back to order.
In the end,
Republican board members said they believed Young’s campaign relied in good
faith on counts of petition signatures entered by county clerks into an
unofficial state database. They agreed that a lower number of petition
signatures derived from the official hard copies shouldn’t cause voters to
lose the chance to consider “serious and viable candidates.”
“It seems to me if
there is any question, we should err on the side of enfranchisement rather
than disenfranchisement,” said Republican Bryce Bennett, the commission’s
State law requires
Senate candidates to submit signatures from 500 registered voters from each
of Indiana’s nine congressional districts to qualify for the primary ballot.
The state Election
Division reported that Young unofficially had 501 signatures in the 1st
Congressional District, but Democrats and Stutzman challenged that number.
An Associated Press count of Young’s petitions found he was three signatures
During the hearing,
both sides bickered over which signatures should - and shouldn’t - be
counted. And Brooks pointed out that one page containing two signatures for
Young went missing somewhere along the way.
Brooks said adding that it’s a “mystery” where the page “disappeared to.”
At one point
Democrats appeared to be gaining traction in their efforts to disqualify
several crucial signatures. But then Young’s campaign submitted another
batch signatures that they argued should be counted despite having been
That seemed to
satisfy the GOP members of the board and doomed the effort, which would have
required a majority vote among the four commission members to remove Young
from the ballot.
The challenge to
Young highlights a schism in the state GOP that pits the chamber of commerce
Republican establishment against tea party conservatives, who are backing
Stutzman for the nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Dan Coats.
Jim Bopp said he believed Young was getting special treatment and that he
would consult with Stutzman on whether to appeal the decision in court, a
sentiment echoed by Democrats.
“We feel like the
rule of law was not followed,” Bopp said.
If Young is not
allowed on the ballot, Stutzman would be the only GOP candidate left in the
field - a possibility that has many Democrats gleeful.
They prefer that
their candidate - former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill - face Stutzman, who they view
as extremely conservative with an outspoken nature that could turn off
general election voters. They compared him to former GOP Senate candidate
Richard Mourdock, who made incendiary comments about abortion and rape and
lost the 2012 Senate race to Democrat Joe Donnelly.
showed two things - Todd Young thinks he’s above the law and it’s always
someone else’s fault,” Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said,
accusing Young’s campaign of blaming others for their lackluster signature