May 13, 2015 — Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN-3), who began talking about running for Senate even before Sen. Dan Coats (R) announced that he wouldn’t seek another term, officially declared his candidacy Monday. He joins former Indiana Republican Party chairman and Coats’ aide Eric Holcomb in the field of candidates.
Though Sen. Coats made public his intention to retire at the end of March, the field of potential successors has been slow to form. Immediately, all but three of the nine-member House delegation indicated interest in the race but, until yesterday, none had moved into the statewide contest.
At this point, most of the delegation members have declined to run. The two who have not yet closed the door on a potential Senate bid are representatives Todd Rokita (R-IN-4), who is unlikely to enter, and Todd Young (R-IN-9), who well could oppose Stutzman and Holcomb.
No Democrat has yet come forward. Party leaders hope to recruit former senator and governor, Evan Bayh, back into elective politics, but this is likely wishful thinking on their part. Upon leaving office five years ago, Sen. Bayh made public statements about being less than enamored with the way Congress was operating, and it is fair to say the situation has deteriorated since.
Beyond Bayh, former mayors Tom McDermott (Hammond) and Bart Peterson (Indianapolis) have been mentioned as possible Democratic candidates. Former Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN-9) and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz are associated with Senate runs, but their names also appear prominently on the list of potential gubernatorial candidates now that incumbent Gov. Mike Pence (R) is showing vulnerability signs.
Rep. Stutzman previously ran for the Senate, before his election to the House, when he attempted to thwart Sen. Coats’ comeback in 2010. The former senator, who went 18 years between ballot appearances, topped Stutzman 39-29 percent in that year’s Republican primary.
It is likely that several more candidates will enter the race. At least in the early going, the eventual Republican nominee will be favored to hold the seat in the 2016 general election. But, as the presence of Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) indicates, Indiana voters do from time to time break party ranks and elect Democrats. Therefore, Republicans cannot take a positive outcome for granted.
The first phase of the Mississippi special election to replace the late Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-Tupelo) began yesterday and it’s anybody’s guess as to which pair of candidates will advance to the June 2 run-off election.
All 12 Republicans and one Democrat appear on the same ballot. If any candidate were to attract majority support –- almost zero possibility -– the individual would be elected outright. In actuality, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, will advance to the next round.
With no one raising big money, and all of the candidates brandishing similar backgrounds, it is likely that two of the Republicans will proceed to the run-off. On the other hand, with only one Democrat in the race -– former Jackson mayoral aide Walter Zinn -– it is possible he could advance even though he has spent next to nothing on his campaign.
Regardless of whether or not Zinn moves forward, Republicans will hold this seat in the special election. The winner will likely enjoy a long tenure in the House.