By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS — Money is the mother’s milk of politics and shapes the 2020 cycle’s two open seat congressional races. With year-end FEC reports posted, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. in the 1st Congressional District and Christina Hale in the 5th appear to be poised to win their respective Democratic nominations with six-figure funding leads over their closest competitors.

The 5th CD Republican race is not as clear cut, with Republican Dr. Chuck Dietzen holding a nominal money lead over businesswoman Beth Henderson and Treasurer Kelly Mitchell, posting $228,248 in receipts. But he forged that money lead over Henderson with a $120,000 loan from himself. Henderson loaned her campaign $79,600. Without these candidate loans, Dietzen raised $108,248 while Henderson raised $117,273 of her posted $196,873.

Self-funding candidates such as U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (who pumped more than $6 million into the 2018 Senate primary), U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth and to a lesser extent U.S. Rep. Jim Baird, have found traction in recent cycles. But it’s not an ironclad route. Republican Steve Braun put a substantial amount of his own money in his 4th CD race against Rep. Baird, held a $919,000 to $215,000 money advantage, but lost on a controversial mailer and Baird’s extensive farm network.

Neither Dietzen or Henderson has much name identification, though Henderson made a five-figure radio and TV ad buy in January, which continues through mid-February. The ID leader might be Indiana Treasurer Mitchell, who posted $186,950.12. But statewide office holders do not possess high name ID, and we would be surprised if polling showed Mitchell in the single digits.

What Mitchell does have is a vibrant donor list. Her receipts include donations from Nathan Feltman, Catherine Langham, Elaine Bedel, Secretary of State Connie Lawson, Auditor Tera Klutz, Bill Soards, Micah Vincent, Jason Dudich, Lawren Mills, Whitney Foughty, Brian Burdick, Deborah Daniels, Bill Salin and Kathryn Hubbard, among others. But that list will not be enough to pull the Republican 5th CD race out of the tossup zone.

Holding a statewide constitutional office is not a tried and true path to higher office. Secretaries of state Evan Bayh and Todd Rokita used it to win gubernatorial and congressional races in 1988 and 2010, Attorney General Linley Pearson won a GOP gubernatorial nomination in 1992, and Auditor Suzanne Crouch was selected to be Eric Holcomb’s running mate in 2016. So the jump Mitchell is trying to accomplish is relatively rare.

The other 5th CD Republican to keep an eye on is Rev. Micah Beckwith, who posted $95,432 and is expected to run in the social conservative lane. He has donations from former congressmen Marlin Stutzman and Jack Hiler, former legislator Eric Turner, as well as from John Popp, and Fred Glynn, among others.

Hammond Mayor McDermott posted about a $70,000 lead over State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon. McDermott just won his fifth term, is mayor of the district’s largest city and is the former Lake County Democratic chairman. Reardon got substantial earned media from her sexual harassment allegations raised against Attorney General Curtis Hill.

Hale’s $595,421 in posted receipts is the gold standard of the early money wars, with her donor list reading like the who’s who of Indiana Democratic Party politics. While 2018 nominee Dee Thornton complained that the DCCC’s addition of Hale to its “Red to Blue” program was guided by the “age-old Washington tradition: Money,” she was able to post a mere $51,041. Hale has set the table for an easy primary win and an attempt to shift the reliably red 5th CD into the Democratic camp.

As for the other seven CDs, only Rep. Jackie Walorski’s 2nd CD has been in play historically, though not with the current maps. She has a $955,000 money advantage over Democrat Pat Hackett.

None of these seven incumbents appears to be in any danger, unless a Watergate-style tsunami were to raise up by November. All incumbents have six-figure money leads.

Here is our roundup of year-end FEC reports: 

1ST CD: Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott (D) $170,130 in receipts; $45,792 in disbursements; and $124,338 cash on hand. State Rep. Mara Reardon (D) $98,692 in receipts; $2,233 in disbursements; and $96,459. James Harper (D) $84,744 in receipts; $21,580 in disbursements; and $63,163 cash on hand; North Township Trustee Frank J. Mrvan (D) $53,916 in receipts; $4,271 in disbursements; and $49,645 cash on hand; Sabrina Haake (D) $40,867 receipts; $3,750 disbursements; and $37,117 cash on hand. Primary Horse Race Status: Likely McDermott.

2ND CD: U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R) reported $1,179,063 in receipts; $440,417 in disbursements; and $856,677 cash on hand. Pat Hackett (D) reported $223,961 in receipts; $85,345 in disbursements; and $139,814 cash on hand. Primary Horse Race Status: Likely Hackett.

3RD CD: U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R) reported $592,868 in receipts; $384,380 in disbursements; and $219,997 cash on hand. Chris Magiera (R) reported $100,300 in receipts; $93,872 in disbursements; and $6,428 cash on hand. Primary Horse Race Status: Safe Banks.

4TH CD:
U.S. Rep. Jim Baird (R) reported $168,495 in receipts; $99,490 in disbursements; and $178,806 cash on hand.

5TH CD: Christina Hale (D) $595,421.08 raised, including $490,887 from individuals; $98,833 from committees; $176,682 in disbursements; and $418,739 cash; the 2018 nominee Democratic Dee Thornton reported $51,041.87 raised, $36,247.93 spent and $52,156 cash on hand; Jennifer Christie reported $20,121 in total receipts; $15,728 in disbursements; and $6,585 cash on hand. Fifth CD Republicans: Chuck Dietzen posted $228,248 in receipts, disbursements of $35,851; and $192,397 cash on hand. Beth Henderson: $196,873.54 including $79,600 in loans; $57,874.90 in disbursements; and $138,998.64 cash on hand; Treasurer Kelly Mitchell reported $186,950.12 in receipts; $90,811.49 in disbursements; and $96,138.63 cash on hand; Rev. Micah Beckwith reported $95,432.39 in receipts; $57,782.20 in disbursements; and $37,650 cash on hand; Kent Abernathy: $46,817 receipts; $10,582 in disbursements; and $36,235 cash on hand; Andrew Bales reported $7,122 in receipts; $4,182 in disbursements; and $2,939 cash on hand; Matthew Hook reported $10,610; disbursements of $684.71; and $9,925.29 cash on hand. Democratic Primary Horse Race Status: Safe Hale; Republican Primary Horse Race Status: Tossup.

6TH CD: U.S. Rep. Greg Pence (R) $1,225,101 in receipts; $1,209,183 in disbursements; and $216,445 cash on hand.

7TH CD:
U.S. Rep. Andre Carson (D) reported $532,161 in receipts; $417,052 in disbursements; and $965,607 cash on hand.

8TH CD: U.S. Rep, Larry Bucshon (R) reported $493,643 in receipts; $397,342 in disbursements; and $330,531 cash on hand. Thomasina Marsili (D) posted $8,793 in receipts; $3,480 in disbursements; and $5,313 cash on hand.

9TH CD: U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R) posted $668,108 in receipts; $243,579 in disbursements; and $431,855 cash on hand. Republican Dale Dorris reported $195 raised; $8 spent; and $187 cash on hand. Primary Horse Race Status: Safe Hollingsworth.

5TH CD: Sen. Spartz enters race


State Sen. Victoria Spartz announced her entry into the race Wednesday morning. She had previously dropped out of her reelection bid. “We must reverse our country from the socialistic course we are on and return to the founding principles of limited government and individual freedoms,” stated Spartz. “Our country is run by special interests, large corporate groups, and the Washington political machine. The politically connected and rich keep getting richer and everyone else is becoming more and more equally poor. Our debt is out of control, our immigration system is broken, our education system is substandard, our health care system is destroying the middle class, our criminal justice and welfare systems are suppressing the poor, our higher education system is bankrupting young people, yet Washington, D.C., is more concerned with the ‘circus’ and political drama.”

Spartz, a native of Ukraine, immigrated to the United States 20 years ago after meeting her future husband on a train in Europe. Spartz also worked as a CPA in the Big Four public accounting firms where she handled some of the most complex Fortune 500 companies, taught at the IU Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis, and served as the CFO of the Indiana attorney general’s Office. “My unique life experiences, financial and business expertise, legislative experience, and willingness to fight against the status quo are exactly what we need in Washington, D.C. I will stand and fight with conservative and freedom-loving legislators and President Trump for liberty, justice, and opportunity for all Americans.”