By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS – Of the two new Republican congressional nominees, both Erin Houchin in the 9th CD and Jennifer-Ruth Green in the 1st CD had embraced Donald Trump and had campaigned on that fact on their way to emphatic victories in multiple-candidate races.

Houchin told Indiana Public Media the district voters benefited from former President Trump’s policies. Though, she said there weren’t plans to join him at this weekend’s Kentucky Derby. “I believe his policies were good for America,” Houchin said. “We were certainly better under President Trump than we have been under the Biden administration.” She faces Bloomington teacher Matthew Fyfe, who beat Isak Asare and Liam Dorris in the Democratic primary with 56%. “I’m a teacher, I’m going in tomorrow at 8 a.m. to teach these students and that’s the number one priority of this campaign,” said Fyfe. “We need to make sure that we have great schools.”

There was no anti-incumbency trend in Tuesday’s Indiana primary, from evidence in the first of the new super majority maps that were drawn and signed into law last October.

Of the five incumbents who lost (State Sen. Kevin Boehnlein and State Reps. Dan Leonard, John Jacob, Curt Nisly and Jeff Ellington) only Jacob, Leonard and Young were defeated by newcomers, while the rest lost in incumbent v. incumbent races.

With the defeat of Reps. Jacob and Nisly, two major headaches of Speaker Todd Huston are now gone. As for the challenges by the Liberty Defense organization in 25 House races, only four on its list won and three of them – State Rep. Bruce Borders, State Sen. Gary Byrne and Wabash County Councilman Lorissa Sweet – had already won multiple elections. Of these 21 Liberty Defense races where endorsed candidates lost, none were close to matching Howey Politics Indiana’s 7% threshold that would suggest a potential breakthrough in the 2024 cycle.

Here’s how the Liberty Defense races ended:

HD7: Sarina Williams lost to Rep. Jack Teshka, 48.8% to 18%.

HD20: Heather Oake lost to Rep. Jim Pressell 65.6% to 34.5%.

HD21: Stephen Gray lost to Rep. Timothy Wesco 84% to 15%.

HD22: Rep. Curt Nisly lost to Rep. Craig Snow 73.1% 26.9%.

HD31: Andy Lyons lost to Rep. Ann Vermilion 73.9% to 26.1%.

HD33: Brittary Kloer lost to Rep. J.D. Prescott 58 to 42%.

HD47: Luke Campbell lost to Robb Greene 19.4% to 47.9% fand 29.9% for Rep. John Young.

HD41: Richard Bagsby finished third with 28% in a race won by Mark Genda with 42.6%.

HD54: Melissa Meltzer lost to Cory Criswell in this open seat, with Criswell getting 39.6% while Meltzer had 11.3%.

HD56: Mark Pierce lost to Rep. Brad Barrett 74.1% to 25.9%.

HD57: Melinda Griesemer lost to Craig Haggard 66.7% to 33.3%.

HD60: Brittany Carroll lost to Rep. Peggy Mayfield 64.2% to 35.8%.

HD62: Greg “No Bull” Knott lost to Dave Hall 56.7% to 43.3%.

HD72: Jackie Bright Grubbs lost to Rep. Ed Clere 50.2% to 36.7%.

HD78: Sean Selby lost to Rep. Tim O’Brien 66% to 34%.

HD79: Russ Mounsey lost to Majority Leader Matt Lehman 66-34%.

HD81: David Merver lost to Rep. Martin Carbaugh 65.3% to 34.7%.

HD88: Chrystal Sisson lost to Rep. Chris Jeter 74.9% to 25.1%.

HD90: David Waters lost to Rep. Mike Speedy 82.1% to 17.9%.

HD91: David Hewitt lost to Rep. Robert Behning 61.8% to 38.2%.

HD93: Rep. John Jacob lost to Julie McGuire 61.1% to 38.9%.

The Liberty Defense campaign was based on the notion that House Republicans weren’t conservative enough. The Tuesday results revealed that voters thought most incumbents were sufficiently conservative.

Of the four Liberty Defense “victories,” Sen. Byrne had been elected three times in local races, Rep. Borders had held HD45 for most of the past two decades, Sweet had held office, and Hamilton County Councilman Fred Glynn had also won outside the label. Glynn had a six-vote lead over Suzie Jaworowski in the open HD32.

In HD25, Becky Cash (pictured) won 39.4% to 27.1% for Kent Abernathy and 25.9% for Matt Whetstone, who was the subject of an IndyStar article during the final week of the campaign. “In 2007, my opponent quit mid-term as state representative to become a casino lobbyist,” Cash posted on her campaign Facebook page. “After making millions, he now wants you to give him his old job back. We do not need a state representative who wants to come back and serve lobbyists and special interests. We need a state representative who wants to fight for you and your families.”

In HD50, Niki Kelly of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported: “Sweet  defeated Rep. Dan Leonard of Huntington. Leonard, a top Huston lieutenant, drew the wrath of social conservatives for his frequent role in blocking proposals from Nisly and Jacob – either by raising procedural objections or not taking up bills assigned to the House committee he leads.”

Democrats face tough fall

The question for this cycle is whether Indiana Democrats can cut into the Senate super majority (40-10); and House  (71-39). Even with the U.S. Supreme Court leak on the looming Roe v. Wade decision potentially energizing the Democrat base, it is hard to see more than just a couple of seats switching parties in November. We’ll explore the fall maps next week.

Indiana Democratic Chairman Mike Schmuhl promised “kitchen table” campaigns coming. “Indiana’s top businesses have acknowledged that the state is no longer ‘A State that Works’ but a state experiencing a race to the bottom,” Schmuhl said. “Our state has an F-rated workforce, an F-rated quality of life, a D+ rated education system, and is the most polluted state in the nation. Those are the facts. Democrats are telling it straight because state Republicans have spent the last two decades with absolutely no plan for Indiana’s future – just national partisanship. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Hoosiers are getting a taste of a brighter future made possible by Indiana Democrats.”

Houchin, Green embraced Trump

Erin Houchin is poised to become the newest Hoosier in Congress after winning the Republican 9th CD nomination in a district that is rated R+30. Houchin defeated Mike Sodrel 37.3-25.8% with Stu Barnes-Israel polling 21%. She will face Democrat Matthew Fyfe, who won the Democratic primary with 57%.

“I am honored that Hoosier Republicans across Southern Indiana have entrusted me with their vote,” said Houchin. “I’ve spent my life in the 9th District, and look forward to carrying our momentum through November and being the proven conservative fighter we need in Washington. It’s time to push back against the radical Biden-Pelosi agenda and take our country back.” In her TV ads, Houchin noted that she authored a “Critical Race Theory” bill and was “pro-life, pro-gun and pro-Trump.”

In the 1st CD race, Green easily defeated former LaPorte mayor Blair Milo 47% to 25% with former nominee Mark Leyva getting 13%. Green will likely face Democratic U.S. Rep. Frank Mrvan. Green declared victory, saying, “I am honored and humbled that northwest Indiana Republicans have placed their trust in me to be their nominee for Congress. Frank Mrvan pretends to be a moderate Democrat, but his record tells a different story.  Frank Mrvan has rubber-stamped the failed economic, energy, immigration and public safety policies of Biden and Pelosi that have led to soaring inflation, crushing gas prices, a border crisis and skyrocketing crime rates. In fact, Mrvan has voted for the radical liberal agenda of Nancy Pelosi 100% of the time. It’s time for him to come home.”

Green painted Milo as a tax-raising mayor and a “never Trumper.” Green ran cable TV ads and mailers describing Milo as a “never Trump Republican” after she resigned as a 2016 Republican National Convention delegate. “I was not convinced casting a vote for the presumptive nominee was something I could stand behind,” Milo told the NWI Times. “I felt if I’m not going to be able to serve in the full capacity as a voting delegate because of my own reservations about the decisions that were going to have to be made, then I needed to forgo attending the event and provide the opportunity to another who would feel more comfortable with it.”

Mrvan was renominated, saying, “I ran for Congress to address the pressing issues that individuals and families across our region are facing every day. That is why I was proud to vote for the American Rescue Plan, which rescued our economy, schools, working families, small businesses, and saved lives with the implementation of a federal vaccination plan. I am seeking reelection to continue to serve as co-chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus and promote the importance of our domestic manufacturing industry and the working men and women of organized labor. Steel is critical to the Northwest Indiana economy and our national security.”

CD winners

In the 2nd CD, Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski will face Democrat Paul Steury, who ran unopposed (Howey Politics Indiana); 3rd CD Democrat Gary Snyder will face U.S. Rep. Jim Banks. Snyder won with 56%. In the 4th CD, Democrat Roger Day will face U.S. Rep. Jim Baird. In the 5th CD, Democrat Jeannine Lake defeated Matthew hall 60-40% and will face U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz in November. In the 6th CD, Democrat Cynthia Wirth defeated George Holland 73-27% and will face U.S. Rep. Greg Pence. In the 7th CD, Republican Angela Grabovsky won the nomination with 54% and will face U.S. Rep. Andre Carson. In the 8th CD, Ray McCormick won the Democratic nomination with 69% and will face Republican U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon.

Snow, Borders prevail

In two House incumbent v. incumbent races, State Rep. Craig Snow easily defeated State Rep. Curt Nisly in HD22. Snow had a 73-27% lead with 90% of precincts reporting. State Rep. Bruce Borders dispatched State Rep. Jeff Ellington 53-46%. Ellington had moved into HD45 from HD62. The race quickly became bitter, with Borders calling Ellington a carpetbagger and Ellington making jokes about Borders’ experience as an Elvis impersonator. “I’m doing the best for my constituents, and I’m honoring God in what I do,” Borders said in a Tuesday night phone interview with Indiana Public Media.

SD47: Boehnlein loses to Byrne

In the lone Indiana Senate dual incumbent race in SD47, State Sen. Gary Byrne overcame a late deficit to defeat State Sen. Kevin Boehnlein. Byrne was chosen by caucus to replace Houchin in SD47 while Boehnlein was appointed by caucus to replace Sen. Ron Grooms in the old SD46. Byrne and Boehnlein were drawn into the new SD47. While Boehnlein began his campaign in a district centered in Clark and Floyd counties, the new SD47 was drawn to include Floyd, Washington and Harrison counties, the latter two providing Byrne’s margin of victory. After 99% of the Floyd returns were reported, Boehnlein was up about 5%, but didn’t come out of Floyd with a large enough plurality. Sen. Byrne’s son is an employee of the Floyd Sheriff Department and the senator who replaced Houchin in a February SD47 caucus had held office in Harrison County. “We just had a lot of grassroots support, a lot of volunteers,” Byrne told the News & Tribune. “We didn’t raise the money that my opponent had, and I didn’t really want the money from Indianapolis. With the grassroots work and knocking on doors, we were able to overcome it.” Boehnlein told the News & Tribune, “In the end, there was too much to overcome. We faced two different districts and four different opponents during the course of a year. That takes a toll.”

SD46: Hunley wins wide victory

IPS school principal Andrea Hunley won an unexpectedly wide victory; leading with 43.5% of the vote, with 91% of vote centers reporting. Indianapolis Councilwoman Kristin Jones, who was the Marion County Democratic Party’s pick for the nomination, had 26.4% of the vote. Ashley Eason had 16.3%, Karla Lopez-Owens had 12.7% and Bobby Kern 1% of the vote. “I ran for you. To represent you, to lift up your voices and needs, and to shift the status quo,” Hunley said in the video. “And y’all, we made history today by electing the first Black state senator for District 46.”

SD25: Deery wins coming from behind

Spencer Deery, an aide to Purdue President Mitch Daniels, won a come-from-behind victory in the open SD23. Deery won with 30.8% over Parke County GOP Chairman Bill Webster, who finished with 27%. Webster had maintained a sizable lead throughout much of Tuesday evening. Fountain County Clerk Paula Copenhaver had 23% while Christian Beaver had 19.3%. Deery will face West Lafayette Councilman David Sanders, who ran unopposed. 

SD14: Johnson drubs Turpin

The financial underdog in the race for a Republican nomination in an open state Senate seat defeated a more mainstream conservative (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). In Senate District 14, Dr. Tyler Johnson won 52.8% to 38.4% over Allen County businessman Ron Turpin. Denny Worman finished third with 8.8%. Johnson, 38, credited his win over Turpin to being “blessed with really good people. It comes down to grassroots.” Senate District 14 covers parts of Allen and DeKalb counties; it previously was served by Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, who retired. Johnson, of Leo-Cedarville, will face Democrat Zach Heimach of Auburn in the fall. Much of the attention was focused on Turpin, an East Allen County Schools board member. Johnson, an emergency room physician, was seeking office for the first time. Turpin, 51, raised almost $600,000 for the race while Johnson brought in $170,000. Former Vice President Mike Pence endorsed Turpin and headlined a fundraiser.

SD4: Pol easily prevails

State Sen. Rodney Pol, D-Chesterton, appears to have triumphed over three opponents to claim the Democratic nomination in Indiana Senate District 4 (Carden, NWI Times). Pol won a four-way race with 44%, out-distancing Todd Connor with 26.6%, Deb Chubb at 21.6% and former Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer who had 7.8%.   Pol next will compete in the Nov. 8 general election against former Porter County Councilman Jeff Larson, of Chesterton, who defeated Johannes Poulard, of Michiana Shores, to win the Republican nomination. In SD1, State Sen. Michael Griffin, who succeeded State Sen. Frank Mrvan, defeated Martin Del Rio 65.9% to 34.1%.

HD32 still too close to call

The Republican primary in the new Indiana House District 32 remained too close to call Wednesday afternoon. Fred Glynn holds a six-vote lead over Suzie Jaworowski—1,844 to 1,838—with 100% of voters centers counted and most absentee ballots counted. Paul Nix of Fishers has 479 votes (IBJ). The candidates had been waiting today on tallies from a final vote center in Marion County where a problem prevented immediate counts. That was resolved late Wednesday with no change in the totals. However, Marion County will continue to count late-arriving ballots and consider provisional ballots, which are cast when there are questions about a voter’s qualifications or address. The county has until May 16 to certify its results. Candidates have until May 17 to ask for a recount.

Hogsett calls for end of slating

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett called for the end of the Marion County Democratic Party’s controversial slating process Tuesday evening (Wren, Importantville).Hogsett and his political operation have long advocated privately for the abolition of slating. “The Marion County Democratic Party has always enjoyed success welcoming fresh ideas and amplifying the energy of new voices,” Hogsett said in a statement issued by his campaign committee to IMPORTANTVILLE. “While there are historic reasons for its existence, it has become clear in recent years that the decades-old convention endorsement process no longer serves such a purpose. As a result, I am calling on the Marion County Democratic Party to commit itself to an open primary process in next year’s municipal elections and to strongly consider abandoning the practice altogether moving forward. In so doing, I am confident the Marion County Democratic Party of today will find strength in ensuring that every voter has an equal voice in determining our future.”

Trump claims Indiana wins

“It was a great evening for the Republican Party and we love all of our candidates from Indiana and Ohio,” Donald Trump told Fox News. “I went 22-0.” While Green and Houchin called themselves “pro-Trump,” neither won a formal endorsement from the former president.

6 school refenenda pass

Indiana voters Tuesday overwhelmingly backed local property tax increases to fund school operations, but hesitated to pay more for campus construction and renovation projects (AP). The May election saw more referendums on the ballot than in the past three elections combined as the state emerges from COVID-19 economic uncertainty. In total, Indiana voters approved seven referendums out of the nine that were proposed. All six of the operating referendums on the ballot passed, giving schools around the state additional tax revenue to fund programs, transportation, and salaries.

INDems begin town hall series tonight

The Indiana Democratic Party announced the launch of the “2022 Town Hall Series”, an effort by Tom McDermott, Indiana Democrats, and the Libertarian Party of Indiana to hear from all voters about the top issues beginning at 6 tonight in Fort Wayne at the David Hefner Pavilion. Indiana Republicans declined to participate.