(INDIANAPOLIS) — The election isn’t until November, but three new members of the General Assembly have already clinched victory.
Three nominees to replace retiring Democrats are now officially unopposed after the passing of a pair of deadlines for candidates to get on the ballot. Army veteran Renee Pack will be the new state representative on Indy’s westside, replacing fellow Democrat Karlee Macer. Former Miss Indiana and ex-Monroe County Councillor Shelli Yoder (D) will be the new state senator from Bloomington, replacing Mark Stoops. And Maureen Bauer will replace her father Pat in a South Bend House seat, extending the Bauer family’s 56-year hold on the seat — Burnett Bauer served in the House for six years before giving way to his son Pat, the future House speaker, in 1970.
Monday was the deadline for Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians to fill any ballot vacancies. Republicans and Democrats added 11 candidates for House and Senate seats. That leaves nearly a third of the 125 House and Senate seats on the ballot uncontested. 13 Democrats, including Pack and Bauer, and 18 Republicans have clear paths to victory in the House. Yoder is one of six Democrats and three Republicans unopposed in the Senate.
Requirements are different for third parties other than the Libertarians — candidates need to gather signatures to get on the ballot. The deadline to turn in those signatures was last week, but it’ll be next week before the Indiana Election Division finishes processing submissions from all 92 counties. While Pack, Yoder and Bauer have no challengers from any party, candidates might surface in other districts. At least one independent House candidate has submitted petiitions, but Kat Hardwick isn’t Representative Jim Lucas’s (R-Seymour) only opponent. Jeffrey Prewitt was unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Libertarians are fielding six House candidates, and barring a late-arriving independent, will have the only challenger on the ballot in two races.
Only once has a late addition to the ballot gone on to victory, but state Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer and Democratic Chairman John Zody both say it’s important to give voters a choice and hold the other side’s candidates accountable. And both say it can boost turnout, and reduce the number of voters who lose interest before reaching the county races at the end of the ballot. Zody says it’s also an opportunity to give candidates experience that may help them in future races.
Two of Democrats’ five new House candidates create rematches of the 2018 election. Loretta Barnes and Marty Lemert got less than a third of the vote against Representatives Sharon Negele (R-Attica) and Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) two years ago, and initially sat out this year’s race before stepping forward for another run.
Two more candidates lost primaries last month, but will get a shot at a different office. Dion Bergeron finished fifth in a crowded Republican primary for the congressional seat of retiring Democrat Pete Visclosky — he’ll pursue the Indiana House instead against Representative Pat Boy (D-Michigan City). And Democrat Cinde Wirth, after losing an Indiana House primary by 489 votes, will instead be the nominee against Senator Eric Koch (R-Bedford).
Democrats’ addition of two Senate candidates gives them at least a theoretical shot at the majority in the chamber, though the odds are astronomical — they’d have to win every contested race, or win all but one plus the governor’s race. Even breaking the Republican supermajority would require a gain of seven seats, which Zody concedes is unrealistic. He says Democrats are focused on gaining ground in the Senate, and breaking Republicans’ House supermajority — a one-seat gain would accomplish that. Hupfer says Republicans’ goal is to keep the supermajority and try to add to it.