The Indianapolis Star's Tim Swarens penned a column that published today about the need for the Indiana Democratic Party to deepen its bench.
He uses the recent withdrawal from the Senate race by State Rep. Christina Hale as a jumping off point into the problems Democrats have had in finding different perspectives to run for office in Indiana, but he misses a couple of larger points.
First of all, he's right in one regard. Democrats do need people to step up and run. Hale would have been a tremendous candidate for U.S. Senate and a welcome new addition to that level of politics. By the same token, her voice would have been lost in the Indiana House, and we need it there, too.
Her withdrawal leaves Democrats with former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill in the race. Now, Hill would not be my first choice to run for the Senate seat, but I think he does bring a unique set of skills to the battle. Hill has prevailed in close races before in a conservative-leaning district. He also brings baggage of having been a previous loser in a U.S. Senate campaign and a couple of House races, too. Yes, he's been around the block a time or two, but he's likely the best chance Democrats have to win that seat this time around. Plus, I wonder where Swarens was when Indiana Republicans exhumed Dan Coats' legislative career to run for Senate in 2010.
The Governor's race presents a similar situation. State Senator Karen Tallian is in the race as is Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, but the likely frontrunner for the Democratic nomination is the same guy that ran four years ago, John Gregg. Now, Gregg again, in a perfect world, would be tossed aside for new blood. This isn't a perfect world right now. Gregg came within three percentage points of retiring Mike Pence. Many blame Gregg's views on critical issues like abortion and gay rights as the reason for his loss in 2012.
Beyond Gregg's campaign, Tallian is a new voice. She has an excellent resume and a current working relationship with the General Assembly because she's in it! Five years ago, Glenda Ritz was a school media specialist. Now, she's running for Governor.
Swarens rips the Democrats for losing big in 2010, 2012, and 2014. 2010, as you might remember was not a good year for Democrats. Dems lost their majority in the Indiana House and suddenly Pete Visclosky, Joe Donnelly and Andre Carson were the only three Democrats in the Indiana U.S. Congressional Delegation. Republicans used that advantage after the 2010 census to redraw very favorable districts. Not coincidentally, we've seen them go from a majority to a supermajority in the General Assembly. We've also seen the GOP draw out any semblance of competition in the U.S. House races. Dems did win two statewide races in 2012 as Joe Donnelly went to the Senate and Glenda Ritz went to the Statehouse. In 2014, Dems just tried to hold on.
For the future, Democrats also have several excellent standard bearers beyond and including Hale that will be heard from in the future. I would list them all here, but I might forget someone. There are current General Assembly members, U.S. Congressional Delegation members, Mayors, and others scattered across the state.
The Indiana Democratic Party does have its problems, but I don't think the Swarens piece dives deeply enough into the causes of the current conundrum, the future prospects and possible opportunities that may come the Democrats' way.