By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS - It’s follow-the-money time, and that leads us to conclude that SD30 is truly a tossup race while Republican State Reps. Dale Devon and Martin Carbaugh are trying to stave off challenges from Dr. Donald Westerhausen and Kyle Miller, while the House Republican Campaign Committee is targeting the rematch between State Rep. Lisa Beck and Julie Olthoff.

SD30: In the tossup race between Republican State Sen. John Ruckelshaus and Democrat Fady Qaddoura, Qaddoura received $2,000 from LIUNA State Indiana District Council PAC; Ruckelshaus received $10,000 from Northern Indiana Joint Operators Management-Labor PAC, and $10,000 from Jill Ruckelshaus of Washington state.

Viewers contacted WTHR-TV after an attack ad claiming corruption and program cuts caused children to suffer. Reporter Sandra Chapman dug into the records to sort out the claims. The ad in question was paid for by “Hoosiers for Ruckelshaus,” the campaign committee for the state senator. The ad: “It was a shocking case of political corruption. Fady Qaddoura eliminated preschool funding for ‘at risk kids’ but gave over a million dollars in city contracts to a consulting firm and then went on their payroll. Corrupt Fady Qaddoura used public office for personal gain, while children suffered.” The ad is talking about the “On My Way Pre-K” pilot program, it started in 2015 by former Republican Mayor Greg Ballard. The idea was to provide pre-kindergarten for 3-year-olds in Marion County for a five-year pilot program. The city of Indianapolis provided millions in funding. He was the city controller last year. His job was to pay the city’s bills and maintain a balanced budget. But Qaddoura had no authority to end preschool for 3-year-olds on his own. Mayor Hogsett has stated in news reports that it was his decision with the backing of the City County Council.” 

Qaddoura reacted to WTHR-TV’s fact check: “Many voters across Senate District 30 were angry to see distorted attacks made against my character and my campaign, and I’m happy WTHR came to the same conclusion we all knew: John Ruckelshaus is not only lying, but he resorted to the same tactics we’ve grown tired of from national politics.” Horse Race Status: Tossup.

SD32: In her challenge to State Sen. Aaron Freeman, Democrat Belinda Drake has received $1,249 from Jan Reed (Zionsville); $1,000 from Tallian for Senate; and $1,000 from Indiana Senate Democrats. Horse Race Status: Likely Freeman.

SD35: Republican State Sen. Mike Young has received $1,000 from Rachel Hawkins (Indianapolis) and $2,500 from Zink Distributing. He is being challenged by Democrat Pete Cowden. Horse Race Status: Leans Young.

SD36: In her race against Republican State Sen. Jack Sandlin, Democrat Ashley Eason has received $2,000 from Laborers International Union and $2,000 from Journeymen, Plumbers, and Steamfitters Union. Horse Race Status: Leans Sandlin.

HD5: Republican Rep. DeVon received a total of $18,000 in late contributions as follows: $15,000 from HRCC; $2,000 from Sherman for State Rep; and $1,000 from NiSource PAC. Democrat Donald Westerhausen received $1,000 from 314 Action PAC. As a St. Joseph County Council member representing heavily Republican Granger from 2002 to 2012, and then over the past eight years as a state representative, Rep. DeVon either ran unopposed or enjoyed double-digit percentage wins each election (Parrott, South Bend Tribune). In his six elections for both offices, DeVon had run unopposed three times and won his three races by 16%, 26% and 36%. So in 2018, when Granger cardiologist and political newcomer Don Westerhausen came within 466 votes, or two percentage points, of winning DeVon’s House District 5 seat, one might wonder if it shocked the longtime home builder. “No, we expected it,” DeVon said. “He spent a couple hundred thousand dollars. We tried to stay dollar to dollar with him. He worked hard and we did too.” DeVon actually nearly doubled Westerhausen’s expenditures in 2018, spending about $392,000 to the challenger’s $209,000, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Indiana Secretary of State’s Election Division. DeVon said he figures he also was hurt by typically lower voter turnout in an off-presidential election year, since the Granger part of the district is so heavily Republican and many people vote straight-ticket. Westerhausen said he knew “right away” that he wanted a rematch in 2020, fueled largely by two factors. He said he had sought advice from South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg before the 2018 campaign, and Buttigieg told him, “To measure your commitment you should ask yourself, are you willing to do this two times in a row if you lose the first time?” Horse Race Status: Tossup.

HD12: In the open seat of State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, Democratic nominee Mike Andrade is seeking to fend off Republican Tom Wichlinski. Andrade received a total of $14,300 as follows: $2,000 from Iron Workers Local 395 PAC; $5,000 from I-PACE; $1,300 from Listing Leasers Northeast of Highland;  $5,000 from Indiana State Iron Workers PAC; $1,000 from Better Indiana of Zionsville. Horse Race Status: Likely Andrade.

HD81: In another rematch between Rep. Carbaugh and Democrat Kyler Miller, the HRCC pumped $20,000 to Carbaugh. Horse Race Status: Tossup.

HD37: In a challenge to new House Speaker Todd Huston, Democrat Aimee Rivera Cole has received an additional $776 from Act Blue for a total of $4,171. Huston began airing TV ads earlier this month. Horse Race Status: Likely Huston.

HD39: In her challenge to Republican State Rep. Jerry Torr, Democrat Ashley Klein has received $2,000 from Laborers District Council, and $3,000 from Iron Workers Local 22. Horse Race Status: Leans Torr.

HD75: In this open seat, Democrat John Hurley received $5,000 from State Ironworkers. He faces Republican Cindy Ledbetter. Horse Race Status: Leans Ledbetter.

HD88: In the seat of former speaker Brian Bosma, State Rep. Chris Jeter is seeking to fend off Democratic challenger Pam Dechert, who received a total of $4,518 in late contributions as follows: $1,518 from Act Blue and $3,000 from I-PACE. Horse Race Status: Likely Jeter

HD19:  Calling a winner won’t be easy in the race for the 19th House District. State Rep. Lisa Beck, of Hebron, who has represented this section of south county since her narrow victory two years ago, is running for reelection (Dolan, NWI Times). Julie Olthoff, of Crown Point, who was the 19th District representative for four years before her defeat to Beck, wants that seat in the Indiana House of Representatives back. As the incumbent, Beck has the advantage of proving she can do the job from her recent accomplishments in the General Assembly, which she has reminded her constituents in glossy mailers. Olthoff can hope the voters fondly remember her past public service. Neither candidate is assuming anything. “This is a toss up district,” Julie Olthoff said. The district is centered on Crown Point and its rural outskirts, which were solidly Republican until three decades ago when Democrats increasingly made their presence felt in local elections. Jim Wieser, the Lake County Democratic Party chairman, argues the Republican-controlled General Assembly tried to turn back the clock by redrawing the 19th’s boundaries several years ago to include heavily Republican precincts in Porter County. That redistricting favored Olthoff in 2014 and 2016, when she narrowly outpolled her Democratic candidates. Wieser said Democratic Party candidate Beck just out-hustled Olthoff two years ago. “And (Beck) is working very hard again,” he said. Dan Dernulc, the Lake County Republican chairman, said 2018 was a fluke year when Democrats prevailed almost all the way across the ballot. He said Olthoff, “is working her tail off this year and I’m confident she will win this time.” Horse Race Status: Leans Beck.
 
HD15: Slager working rematch harder - The Nov. 3 election for the 15th District state representative will be a repeat of the 2018 legislative contest between Democrat Chris Chyung and Republican Hal Slager (Dolan, NWI Times). Slager lost by only 82 votes two years ago in a stunning upset to Chyung, a political newcomer, who won what had been considered a solid Republican district since its boundaries were redrawn after the 2010 census to encompass Dyer, Schererville, much of St. John and Griffith. Dan Dernulc, the Lake County Republican chairman, said Slager was a victim of a Democratic tsunami of votes two years ago that overcame many local Republicans. “I’m confident he will win this time. He is working 10 times harder than before,” Dernulc said. Slager had served three terms on 15th District House seat from 2012 to 2018 and a decade before that on the Schererville Town Council. He said some critics complained he had been in office too long. “But Democrats have had no problem reelecting state Sen. Frank Mrvan Jr. for the last 40 years,” Slager said. Slager said he was overconfident two years ago. “Our polling was off and I didn’t put in the work, but this year I have really been getting into it and I’ve been well received. Horse Race Status: Tossup.
 
HD4: Teacher challenging Soliday - This is a rematch between seven-time Republican incumbent Ed Soliday and elementary school music teacher and former Valparaiso Councilperson Deb Porter, a Democrat (Wieland, NWI Times). Porter, 61, an elementary school music teacher in the Portage Township School District, has served as the teachers’ union president, working with the legislature on bills. Being on the union’s bargaining team has also given her a good understanding of the budget process, she said. “I’ve seen the damage the legislature has done to my profession,” she said. “The biggest priority of the upcoming session will be the budget and we will have to address the declining state income as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown. The other thing is the state of public education. We have a teacher shortage and declining salaries, and the emphasis is on testing that has meant less mastery and a narrower curriculum rather than the broader one the students need. We are teaching to the test.” Horse Race Status: Likely Soliday.

HD7: In one of the few Indiana House seats that appear to be up for grabs in this year’s election, incumbent State Rep. Ross Deal, D-Mishawaka, hopes to fight off Republican challenger Jake Teshka and stop the GOP from adding the seat to its legislative supermajority (South Bend Tribune). Democrats have held state HD7 for at least 40 years. But in 2018, Deal’s predecessor, Joe Taylor, faced a close election in which he beat Republican Troy Dillon by just more than 700 votes, of the nearly 22,000 that were cast. With Deal facing his first general election for the seat, he admits Republicans see him as “vulnerable,” and Indiana political commentator Brian Howey earlier this year named the district one of just a handful of “tossup” races in the state. Horse Race Status: Tossup.