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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Republican nominations in key US House primary races in Indiana decided

The races involved dozens of candidates and millions in campaign spending.

INDIANAPOLIS (CN) — U.S. Representative Victoria Spartz, state Senator Mark Messmer and former U.S. Congressman Marlin Stutzman Tuesday clinched the Republican nomination for three key U.S. House races in Indiana.

The candidates will represent Republicans in Indiana’s 5th, 8th, and 3rd Congressional Districts in the November general election, where each is expected to maintain huge leads over their Democratic opponents.

Spartz, the first Ukrainian-born member of Congress, would not have been considered a vulnerable candidate in the Republican primary except that she sat out of the race for nearly a year before deciding to run again.

The time away from the campaign allowed eight other Republicans to enter the race, including her top challenger, Indiana House member Chuck Goodrich.

Goodrich, the owner and CEO of Gaylor Electric, has criticized Spartz for “putting Ukraine first.” However, Spartz voted against the latest round of government funding for Ukraine’s war with Russia.

According to FEC data, Goodrich raised $5.4 million for his campaign, although Spartz was still seen as a slight favorite in the days leading up to the election.

The most favorable poll for Goodrich showed Spartz ahead of him by 3 percentage points.

“I will say, there has been a wave of advertising from both Spartz and Goodrich who are the clear frontrunners here. I do think we tend to underestimate the impact of incumbency but if anyone could beat her in this crowded primary, it looks like Chuck Goodrich is best poised to do so,” Laura Merrifield Wilson, a political science professor at the University of Indianapolis, said ahead of the primary.

Wilson also said that Spartz had “seemed to help herself” with her recent vote opposing aid to Ukraine.

While Goodrich did make it a contest, as of 9:49 p.m. Eastern Time, the AP reported Spartz winning with 39.1% of the vote, while Goodrich trailed at 33.1%

Indiana’s 8th District had an open field of eight candidates, with former U.S. Representative John Hostettler and Indiana state Senator Mark Messmer regarded as the frontrunners. 

The seat became open when Representative Larry Bucshon decided not to run.

This race drew national attention after the Republican Jewish Coalition launched a $1 million ad buy to defeat Hostettler, who represented the district from 1995 to 2007.

The group’s ad endorsed Messmer as their preferred candidate.

“Messmer got a huge boost through the Republican Jewish Coalition with a $1 million ad buy last month that targeted Hostettler and his prior Congressional record when he was in Congress,” said Wilson.

The race was called for Messmer early in the evening when he was leading with 38.3% of the vote while Hostettler was in a distant second place, garnering 19.3% of the vote as of 9:51 p.m. Eastern Time.

"I'm running to represent the often-overlooked voices and to bring genuine change to Washington. I am devoted to tackling pressing issues like illegal immigration, safeguarding our liberties, protecting the unborn, balancing the federal budget, stopping the woke agenda, and growing jobs in Southwest Indiana,” said Messmer in a statement on his campaign website.

In Indiana’s 3rd District, four candidates spent over $500,000, with Christian nonprofit executive Tim Smith leading the way with just under $1 million spent.

The race attracted a total of eight Republican candidates after Representative Jim Banks announced he was going to run for the U.S. Senate. 

Among the other lead candidates were former Allen County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Davis, Indiana Republican State Senator Andy Zay and former U.S. Representative Marlin Stutzman.

Stutzman, who represented the district from 2010-2017, before leaving to launch an unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign, narrowly won the contest Tuesday with 24.2% of the vote as of 9:43 p.m.

Smith was the runner-up with 22.6% of the vote, Davis was in third with 19.5% and Zay in fourth place with 16.4%.

Indiana’s 8th and 3rd Districts were the second and third most expensive U.S. House races in the country, according to data from Open Secrets.

According to the nonprofit, $5.9 million was spent in Indiana’s 8th District, and $4.5 million was spent in the 3rd district. 

The open seats drew many candidates and millions in spending because the Republican primary winner is expected to have a huge advantage in the general election compared to their Democratic opponents.

The millions of dollars spent in these races are often used to sway a small number of voters.

“In general, the challenging dynamic of campaign finance is that you may be spending a lot of money to influence just a small handful of voters, and in this election, which as a primary will already naturally only capture limited interest and when the top of the ticket has already been determined in previous state contests, voters may not be incentivized,” said Wilson.

Indiana’s May primary means that in years with a presidential race, many prospective candidates have already locked up their nomination by the time the Hoosier state gets a say.

However, vulnerable incumbents or open seats in partisan districts provide among the best opportunities to grab a seat in Congress.

“Incumbents have an advantage because they have the advantage of name recognition and the resources to scare off or defeat primary opponents,” said Chad Kinsella, professor of political science at Ball State University.

Categories / Elections, National, Politics

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