By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS  – While the new redistricting maps are awaiting final approval on Friday, there is already an exodus of legislators bailing out of proposed multi-member districts. The latest was State Rep. Doug Gutwein, who was drawn into a proposed HD16 with State Rep. Don Lehe.

Both Lehe and Gutwein have announced they will retire, creating a new open district should the House finalize the proposed maps on Friday.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve House District 16 for all these years, and I have enjoyed every second of the opportunity,” Gutwein said. “Representing our local communities and standing up for our beliefs have always been a priority, and I will continue to work hard on important issues facing our state in my final year.” Gutwein said he is retiring in order to spend more time with his family.

Said Lehe on Tuesday, “Serving as the state representative for House District 25 has been one of the greatest honors of my life. I’m very thankful to all of the Hoosiers I have been fortunate enough to represent for nearly two decades.” 

Lehe and Gutwein join State Rep. Tony Cook and Ways & Means Chairman Tim Brown announcing their retirements in the House, while State Sen. Phil Boots will exit the Senate after being drawn into SD7 with freshman State Rep. Brian Buchanan. Before the proposed maps were unveiled last week, State Sen. Ron Grooms announced he would retire, but his SD46 was moved to Indianapolis, setting up a potential SD47 GOP primary race between State Sen. Eric Houchin, Floyd County Commissioner Shawn Carruthers and businessman Kevin Boehnlein, who had been endorsed by Houchin for the old SD46.

The Senate Elections Committee voted to advance proposed maps on a 7-2 vote Tuesday morning, setting up final passage for Thursday. The House is expected to concur with minor changes in the maps on Friday.

Two other House districts – HD47 where Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, and Rep. John Young, R- Franklin, were drawn together; and HD18 with State Rep. Craig Snow and Rep. Curt Nisly (HD22) – could have multi-member races in 2022. 

Previous reports had freshman Republican Rep. John Jacob moved into HD97 with Democrat Rep. Justin Moed, but multiple Democrat and Republican sources tell Howey Politics Indiana that is not the case. Jacob’s HD97 does include former state representative and Marion County Republican chairwoman Cindy Kirchhofer, who is said to be exploring a primary challenge.

Rep. Cook, R-Cicero, who had been drawn into House Speaker Todd Huston’s HD37, said last week he would retire. “It’s time to turn to the next chapter, which includes prioritizing my family’s health as well as my own,” Cook said. “I appreciate the trust the residents of House District 32 have placed in me, and I’ll make sure there is a seamless transition for the constituents.”

According to Niki Kelly of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Nisly made clear that while it isn’t “my district,” and said he plans to run again against Rep. Snow, a freshman Republican, regardless if there are others in the primary. “It’s up to the people to elect their representative. Whether it is two of us or 10 of us I will work hard,” he said. He declined to comment if the move was done on purpose by GOP leadership. Nisly doesn’t caucus with his fellow Republicans and often butts head with those in charge.

In the Senate, State Sen. Boots announced last week he would retire, saying, “During my tenure in the Indiana General Assembly, I worked with my legislative colleagues to cut income taxes, cap property taxes, eliminate inheritance taxes, keep our budget balanced, and create pro-growth, pro-jobs policies – all of which help hard-working Hoosiers and make Indiana a great state in which to live, work, and raise a family. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to serve.” 

Two other Senate districts also have multi-members. SD2 has State Sens. Lonnie Randolph and Frank Mrvan – both Democrats – and SD25 that has Democrat State Sen. Tim Lanane drawn in with Republican Mike Gaskill. There is wide speculation that Sen. Mrvan will retire, while Sen. Lanane would face a tough reelection bid with the proposed SD25 featuring two heavily-Republican Hamilton County townships.

Gaskill told the Herald-Bulletin that he will be a candidate in 2022, while Lanane said he is taking a hard look at the new proposed district. “This is the third time my district has changed,” Lanane said, referring to redistricting processes in 2001 and 2011. “I was not surprised. There have been substantial changes in the past. I think it’s more favorable for the Republicans. It is areas I’m familiar with. A Democrat can win but it will require a lot of work.”

Roberts’ use of 2020 data

IUPUI graduate student Nick Roberts has created comparisons between old districts and proposed districts using 2020 general election data from the Trump/Biden presidential race that have gained wide circulation on Twitter. But Democratic consultant Dave Galvin, who is advising Senate Democrats, says that using the 2020 data from the election where President Trump carried the state with 57% of the vote would be like using 2008 data in an election that Democrat Barack Obama won the state. “We know that many Obama voters never showed up to vote again,” Galvin told HPI on Wednesday. “Democrats shouldn’t be convinced that Trump voters will show up in 2022 and 2024, particularly if he isn’t the presidential nominee.” Galvin suggested a more relevant comparison would be using secretary of state race data from 2018.

Houchin facing challenge from Boehnlein

State Sen. Erin Houchin has signed on to manage the state treasurer campaign of Suzanne Jaworowski, while Republican businessman Kevin Boehnlein is indicating he will challenge her in the SD47 primary. Boehnlein had intended to run in SD46 until proposed Senate maps moved SD46 to Indianapolis, leaving Boehnlein and Floyd Commissioner Shawn Carruthers in Houchin’s SD47. In a statement to HPI, Boehnlein said, “Redistricting every 10 years is always unpredictable. As someone who has lived in New Albany, Georgetown and Greenville, what matters the most now is that residents of the new Senate district – which includes the biggest part of us who live in Floyd County – are as well represented in the future as we have in the past. As a family, we ended up being drawn into the very center of the new district, which puts Harrison and Washington County literally in our back yard.” 

Houchin will seek reelection in 2002. “While the maps are not finalized and the process is ongoing, I’m looking forward to running for reelection in the district,” Houchin told HPI on Sunday. “I would be honored to represent the people of Floyd County, where I have many friends and family, if given the opportunity.” Houchin had endorsed Boehnlein, whom she has had a friendship for the past 25 years, for SD46 after Sen. Grooms announced he would retire. The proposed Senate maps moved SD46 to Indianapolis, leaving Boehnlein in SD47.