SOUTH BEND –  Lynn Coleman’s seemingly long-shot candidacy for Congress is “emerging,” described that way by the most important national evaluator of his 2nd District race against Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski.
The evaluation comes from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The DCCC has played a key role in determining the fate of Democratic challengers in the district, going back to when it didn’t give a cent to Sen. Joe Donnelly when he first challenged then-Congressman Chris Chocola – Chocola won big – but then poured resources into the district as Donnelly trounced Chocola on a second try.
The attention of the DCCC, while not yet guaranteeing big resources, was a factor in the Cook Political Report’s change of its rating of the district from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican,” meaning that the nationally regarded report now regards the race as competitive, not a sure thing for Walorski.
“We can win this election,” Coleman says, confident now that he will have funding to keep running TV spots until election day and that Democrats will have a far superior get-out-the-vote effort.
Maybe. But Walorski has far superior funding, enabling a TV blitz beyond any ad buys Coleman can afford. Also, she is running in a sprawling 10-county district, Republican flavored in redistricting, in which she carried nine counties in winning a second term in 2014. She lost only St. Joseph County, largest in the district. She came close even there.
Coleman, a 23-year South Bend police veteran who also was a South Bend mayoral assistant, says he is confident of winning in St. Joseph County by one of those old-time Democratic margins. He also counts on carrying LaPorte and Starke counties and doing much better than the 2014 Democratic challenger in the Republican-tending counties, especially Elkhart County, where he has concentrated extra effort.
Maybe. But this is an election in which hard-to-predict enthusiasm or lack thereof of various voter groups will determine the outcome of many races. Coleman counts on the enthusiasm factor being a plus for him. If it isn’t, he has no chance.
“We will have people who have never voted before,” Coleman predicts, referring to voters in minority groups that don’t always turn out in large numbers in the district, Hispanics and blacks.
“Some Republicans will come across the aisle,” Coleman adds, “because even in her own party, she (Walorski) is not super popular.” He says polling shows that.
The first indication that there actually could be a competitive race in the 2nd District came when Politico, a source of national political news, reported that Republican pollsters, concerned about lack of enthusiasm among GOP voters, found the district, thought safe, to be instead “surprisingly close.”
Then the DCCC placed the Coleman challenge on its “emerging races” list. That doesn’t mean immediate new funding. The DCCC decides pragmatically where to channel resources for the best chance of winning. It won’t give a cent to Coleman if it finds in new polling that he doesn’t seem to have a real chance.
The listing of the Coleman race as “emerging” does provide some help. It signals to possible sources of Democratic funding that he is a candidate to be considered when deciding where to provide help. The new Cook Political Report evaluation, with praise for how Coleman, “under the national radar . . . has assembled a respectable campaign,” also helps.
Coleman says he hopes it also will signal to the news media in the district to take the race seriously and provide more coverage. He expresses frustration at lack of news media coverage of Walorski’s refusal to accept numerous debate opportunities. Walorski, still regarded as ahead and still with higher name recognition, sees no political advantage in any actual debate.
“It’s disrespectful of the voters,” Coleman contends. “That (debates) is what the public wants.” It also could be disrespectful of her political consultants for Walorski to agree to debate.

Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.