INDIANAPOLIS  – To understand how 5th CD Democratic nominee Christina Hale will have to thread the proverbial needle to turn this reliably red district to blue in her race against Republican State Sen. Victoria Spartz, look no further than Carmel City Hall.

In a bizarre subplot to the COVID-delayed Tuesday primary, on Monday, Mayor James Brainard threatened to sue Minneapolis for costs his city had incurred from the protests and riots that had spread across the nation. And Brainard invoked a curfew, its duration “indefinite” due to what Carmel Police Chief Jim Barlow described as “threats directed toward our community,” insisting the curfew was “necessary to better ensure the safety.”

According to the 2010 Census, Carmel is 85% white, 3% black, and 9% Asian. The “threats” presumably were made by protesters in Indianapolis. In other major U.S. cities there were threats by protesters of taking their actions to the suburbs. A source told HPI he witnessed a Carmel demonstration Tuesday near the Monon Center, describing it as “five African-Americans and whites who looked like they belonged to the Carmel Honor Society.”  On Wednesday, Brainard announced he had ended the curfew, but said it could be reinstituted if further information warrants.

Another cautionary tale that comes with the combustible race issue in American politics, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., himself pitted in an intense Democratic 1st CD primary race, arrived at a volatile protest in his city on Saturday and intervened. “When I got there, nobody was talking to each other,” McDermott told the NWI Times. “The cops were digging in and not letting them get to the highway and the protesters were yelling (curses) at them. The crowd was extremely hostile. They knew exactly who I was. People would come up and yell curses at me, although some people were saying thank you for being here.”

While Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez credited McDermott for “calming the the crowd,” on Tuesday, he was defeated by North Township Trustee Frank J. Mrvan in the primary election. McDermott’s 11th hour leadership wasn’t enough to cut into Mrvan’s endorsement by out-going U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, the Gary Precinct Organization and the United Steelworkers.

We are in the Trump era of whiplash politics, where his impeachment seems like a far-off event even though it occurred in February, and the racial strife in the 10 days after a Minneapolis cop murdered George Floyd has displaced the 100,000 deaths from COVID from the headlines, but if 2020 becomes the “Floyd Election” as opposed to  the “Pandemic/Depression Election,” then Hale faces an arduous election.

Despite President Trump’s ham-handed teargas-clearing photo op at St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House, his mulling of invoking the Insurrection Act and his summoning of Richard Nixon’s “moral majority” has the potential of shifting the dynamics in what Democrats hoped for a “purple” 5th CD in November.

Brainard doesn’t fit the profile of an ardent Trumper (he served on President Obama’s climate task force). But his indefinite curfew and talk of threats stand to help Spartz, should racial politics stay in the foreground of this election.

Princeton University political scientist Omar Wasow in his May 2020 paper, “Agenda Seeding: How 1960s Black Protests Moved Elites, Public Opinion and Voting,” found that the violent protests following the April 4, 1968, assassination of Martin Luther King tipped that year’s presidential race to Richard Nixon. Violent protests likely caused a 1.6% to 7.9% shift among whites toward Republicans. In contrast, the Democratic vote in white counties that directly experienced, or were in proximity to, nonviolent protests rose by 1.6%. 

New York Times columnist Thomas Edsall observed: “Based on these calculations, Wasow estimated what the outcome of the 1968 election would have been under a ‘counterfactual scenario that Martin Luther King had not been assassinated on April 4, 1968, and 137 violent protests had not occurred in the immediate wake of his death.’ Under this scenario, Wasow wrote, ‘Hubert Humphrey would have won an additional 763,040 votes nationally,’ including a majority of the votes in five additional states: Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, and Ohio. These swing states would collectively have provided Humphrey with an additional 84 electoral votes and allowed him to win the 1968 election with a total of 275 electoral votes.”

Michigan State University political scientist Matt Grossman adds that in 2016, “Trump incorporated rhetoric combining conservative sentiments with symbols that invoke racial attitudes. He mentioned ‘illegal’ and ‘criminal’ more than prior campaigns and exceeded Richard Nixon levels of ‘law and order’ rhetoric, which had been effective in the past at marrying racial attitudes with broader ideas about liberalism. Trump took advantage of a moment of rising racial conflict. As he began to campaign in 2015, there had been a large upsurge in attention to the Black Lives Matter movement, protests of police violence, and campus protests of discrimination. The Baltimore Freddie Gray protests and riots before his announcement, and the Ferguson anniversary protests after it, stimulated widespread media attention and public interest.”

Hale’s campaign hasn’t embraced the rhetoric and actions such as the $3 trillion Democratic rescue package. Nor has her campaign issued statements in the post-George Floyd protests, suggesting that she is reticent to embrace a Democratic agenda that won’t play well in the northern part of the district. It’s a high-wire act, as she will need a robust turnout in the Indianapolis portion of the district.

“Our community is facing unprecedented challenges, and I’m committed to taking action on the issues most critical to families across (the 5th District),” Hale said in a statement following her defeat of 2018 nominee Dee Thornton on Tuesday, 39-28%. “Whether it’s the lack of access to affordable health care during a global pandemic, or the economic crisis that has forced over half a million Hoosiers to file for unemployment, our problems are too grave to waste time on partisan politics.”

How Spartz won

Sen. Spartz won her primary race with a coordinated media campaign. “Every day there was a mailer, two or three emails and texts,” said former 5th CD Republican chairman Craig Dunn. She loaned her campaign $900,000 (including $150,000 in the last week), though her FEC financial disclosure does not list any bank accounts. In addition, her campaign aired four TV ads that included endorsements from Senate colleagues. There was a biography ad titled “Relentless,” describing her life journey which began in Ukraine. She was one of two candidates – Dr. Chuck Dietzen being the other – to use a full-page advertorial in the Carmel Current. “She had yard signs, TV ads and every method you could have to reach voters,” Dunn said.

Club For Growth spent more than $460,000 on the race, including two attack TV ads describing key rivals Beth Henderson and former Marion County prosecutor Carl Brizzi as anti-President Trump. In addition, Club For Growth members contributed more than $56,000 directly to Spartz’s winning campaign through the Club For Growth PAC.

“Victoria Spartz knows first-hand just how dangerous socialism is from her youth growing up in Soviet Ukraine, we congratulate her on her victory, and look forward to supporting her in the general election. As a fellow Hoosier I am proud of her principled, free-market positions she will take to Washington,” said David McIntosh, president of Club For Growth PAC, who lost a 5th CD primary to U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks in 2012.

Spartz was the only candidate in the field of 15 Republicans who had a political base, even though she was appointed to her Senate district by caucus in 2017. Tuesday was the first time she appeared on an election ballot. But she was able to use her franked mail privileges to communicate with a sizeable chunk of the 5th CD.

Beth Henderson was another self-funding candidate, loaning her campaign $250,000. The personable nurse and businesswoman was crimped by the pandemic. “She couldn’t play to her strong suit,” Dunn said. “The pandemic really hurt her ability to reach out to people.”

1st CD: Mrvan wins with Visclosky’s help

North Township Trustee Frank J. Mrvan took endorsements from out-going U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, the United Steelworkers and the Gary Precinct Organization to defeat Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., to win the open 1st CD Democratic primary. With 80% of precincts reporting, Mrvan had a 2,800 lead over McDermott. “I conceded to Frank two minutes ago,” McDermott told HPI shortly after 10 p.m. (CT). “I don’t see how I can make up 2,800 votes with what’s left out there.” McDermott had doubled Mrvan in fundraising and drew $165,000 of outside PAC money, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the organizational strength of Visclosky and the Steelworkers. 

“We shocked the world,” Mrvan told the NWI Times’ Dan Carden. “We were outspent three-to-one. We kept our head down. We stayed positive. We’ve proven that people want someone who can stay positive, unify, work for them, advocate for them, and bring results back to Northwest Indiana. People beat big money in Northwest Indiana.” 

Mrvan credited Visclosky for his win. “Everywhere I went, from the first step of the campaign, every minute of the campaign early on people asked: Who is Congressman Visclosky, who is Pete, endorsing?” Mrvan said. “He’s handled the job with grace and dignity, he has proven results, he’s beloved within our community, and his endorsement was something that gave credibility and also allowed us to be able to move forward with momentum, along with the United Steelworkers — one of the most powerful, results-driven unions in Northwest Indiana.”

Mrvan now will face perennial Republican nominee Mark Leyva, the apparent winner of the six-candidate GOP primary,  in the Nov. 3 general election. Voters have sent the Democratic nominee to Washington in every race since the district first was centered on Northwest Indiana in 1932, according to the NWI Times.

Hackett, Ruff win in 2nd, 9th CDs

In the 2nd CD, Democrat Pat Hackett was easily defeating Ellen Marks by 10,000 votes and will face Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski. 

In the 9th CD, former Bloomington councilman Andy Ruff had an 8% lead with 67% reporting, with the Associated Press declaring him the winner. Ruff will face U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth. 

In the 3rd CD, U.S. Rep. Jim Banks was winning in a landslide over Christopher Magiera. Democrats Chip Coldiron and Carlos Marcano where in a nip-and-tuck battle for that nomination. With 80% reporting, the two were tied at 33%, with Tommy Schrader at 20%. 

In the 6th CD, U.S. Rep. Greg Pence faces a rematch with Democrat Jeannine Lake, who easily defeated past nominees Barry Welsh and George Holland. 

In the Democrat 8th CD, Thomasina Marsili had a narrow lead over past nominee Ron Drake, 36-33%, with the AP declaring her the winner. She faces U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon. 

Indianapolis attorney Susan Marie Smith captured nearly half the vote to win the Republican nomination against U.S. Rep. Andre Carson in the 7th CD. 

General Assembly

SD40: Zody loses to Yoder

Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody suffered a landslide loss at the hands of 2016 9th CD nominee Shelli Yoder, who won by an 80-to-18% tally. The two Democrats were seeking the Democrat nomination after State Sen. Mark Stoops announced he would retire.

SD13: Glick glides past Wibel

State Sen. Susan Glick will end up north of 60% in a race between two former LaGrange County prosecutors. Wible ended up going strong negative the final week but the Senate Majority Campaign Committee responded in kind. Wible was aided by the Term Limits group from Florida who sent mailers for him. Former congressman Marlin Stutzman backed Wible on his WOWO radio show a few times for some late exposure.

SD16: Busch defeating Rhoades

State Sen. Justin Busch should end up at 70% or above in his race against Tom Rhoades. Busch won a caucus to replace retiring Senate President Pro Tem David Long.
SD7: Buchanan leading

State Sen. Brian Buchanan should end up at 70% as well. It was his first election since he won a caucus to replace State Sen. Brandt Hershman. The term limits group engaged similarly here, hitting him with multiple mailers and digital ads.  The National Association of Gun Rights was heavilty involved here against Buchanan, who had an A rating from the NRA. 

SD30: Ruckelshaus winning with 80%

State Sen. John Ruckelshaus was blowing out Terry Michael with 80% of the vote with 84% reporting.

HD93: Sherman trails Jacobs

State Rep. Dollyne Sherman was trailing John Jacobs 2,063 to 1,877 with 80% of the vote reporting. A number of Johnson County absentee ballots still had to be counted. The Associated Press declared Jacobs the winner, but sources close to Sherman believe she still has a chance to close the gap. Sherman won a caucus to replace retiring State Rep. Dave Frizzell in 2019. Jacobs has a volatile reputation, with sources saying he once tossed bags filled with tomato juice at pro-choice legislators. He is a State Board of Accounts employee.

HD50: Rep. Leonard edges Stoffel

State Rep. Dan Leonard won a narrow 52-48% victory over Huntington teacher John Stoffel, who was backed by the IPACE PAC.

HD58: Davis wins with Burton backing

Michelle Davis, director of adult education at Central Nine Career Center in Johnson County won the open seat of retiring State Rep. Woody Burton. Davis had been endorsed by Burton. Davis won with 43%, with Jay Hart second at 33% and David Hopper third with 13%. Hopper had been backed by Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers.

HD75: Ledbetter wins open seat

Warrick County Councilwoman Cindy Ledbetter defeated Warrick GOP Chairman Michael Griffin, 52-48% in a seat being vacated by retiring State Rep. Ron Bacon.

HD79: Lehman dispatches Isch

House Majority Leader Matt Lehman was fending off a challenge from social conservative Taylor Isch, winning 56-44% with 84% reporting.

HD88: Jeter defeats McGrath

In the seat being vacated by former House Speaker Brian Bosma, social conservative Chris Jeter defeated Fishers Deputy Mayor Leah McGrath, who had been endorsed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, Bosma and House Speaker Todd Huston. With 73% of the vote reporting, Jeter had a 58-42% lead over McGrath. 

HD6: Bauer wins

In the open HD6, Maureen Bauer had a 44-39% lead over Garrett Blad with 72% reporting. She is the daughter of out-going State Rep. B. Patrick Bauer and will be the third generation to hold the seat. Her grandfather, Bernie Bauer held the seat followed by her father. “It feels very good,” Bauer said Wednesday afternoon (South Bend Tribune). “I’m very grateful. It was an extended primary and it was through very difficult times to be campaigning for the first time.”

HD39: Klein defeats Hinton

Democrat Ashley Klein defeated 2018 nominee Mark Hinton and will take on State Rep. Gerald Torr. 

HD45: Borders defeats Garmong

Republican State Rep. Bruce Borders defeated Jeff Garmong with 68% of the vote.

HD100: Johnson prevails

Indianapolis City-County Councilor and IndyHub President Blake Johnson won over Clif Marsiglio, senior management analyst for IUPUI. Johnson led Marsiglio nearly 77% to 23%. 

Parks loses delegate race

It wasn’t a good election for party chairs. In addition to Democratic Chairman John Zody’s blow out loss in SD30, Vanderburgh County Republican Chairman Wayne Parks lost his state convention delegate race.