Braun picks LG; Victoria, Marlin back, Messmer, Shreve win

Tuesday’s primary results produced more tedium than surprise. Most of the major races everyone was watching were wrapped up by the 10:00 news programs (a reference point that may be quaint in another cycle or two; more on that later), and only a state legislative race or two weren’t fully in the books until Wednesday morning.

So are there any big generalizations of any value that we can serve up based upon the results?

First, money matters – or doesn’t. Second, television viewing patterns matter – or don’t. Third, endorsements matter – or they don’t. Fourth, being an outsider matters – or not. Fifth, Trump, the border, and China do matter – at least in Indiana, and at least in the 2024 Republican primary election.

Seriously, there aren’t a lot of big-picture takeaways from this primary, while we can point to a bunch of “one-offs” that also don’t prove anything . . . including that  a majority of those voting in the primary voted against the gubernatorial primary winner, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R), as well as a substantial majority voting against the winners of the CD 03, CD 05, CD 06, and CD 08 Republican primaries.

So we won’t make a bunch of the usual solemn pronouncements about why you need to pay particular attention to some overarching developments because that would be a reach and end up misleading you as you ponder the November match-ups (or mash-ups given how unlikely some of the respective contestants might be).

Where We Are: A 40,000-foot Perspective

Despite the record cash and attention (ubiquitous television, radio, and digital ads; mountains of direct mail; planes with candidate banners; and candidates showing up at scores of events), turnout was largely low throughout the state – almost alarmingly so in some areas accustomed to much greater early numbers. Some of this may be related to the lack of a substantive Republican primary race for president.

Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Mario Massilamany appeared on one television news program the Thursday night before the primary to lament a four percent early-vote turnout in his county, cautioning supporters of the two leading candidates for the CD 05 seat that in a low-turnout race, anything can happen.

He suggested that friends and family coming to the polls in big numbers for a second-tier hopeful could put their candidate over the top if the top competitors split the vote (we’re told he was looking to head off a possible surge by Raju Chinthala (R) that could be predicated upon a strong Sikh vote in Carmel and Fishers). Indianapolis open-seat HD 90 hopeful Andrew Ireland tweeted frantically at mid-day Tuesday, “Turnout is LOW and the race is very close. Get out and vote today so we can fix our broken property tax system and fire rogue prosecutors like Ryan Mears.” Ireland won a competitive multi-candidate race by an apparent double-digit margin – in terms of actual votes, not percentages.

Only a handful of races were truly close – led by the CD 03 dumpster fire (and they can have quite the post-primary conflagration with the assorted scurrilous direct mailers as tinder). A few state legislative races were turnout-dependent, but no more than the usual retinue of such races; we usually have needed until Wednesday morning to fully ascertain the winner in two or perhaps three races, and this year seemed to offer more dependable results more quickly – a tribute to overworked and underappreciated election workers who have even recently been unfairly threatened or targeted simply because of their responsibilities (take a look at Monroe County and Vanderburgh County, for example). That the voting and tabulation system writ large seems to have worked without any significant hitches is a success story that should be trumpeted in these times.

So let’s look at some other generalizations.


We’ve detailed for you the huge numbers (in terms of individual candidates and the cash they infused) of self-funders. Among the congressional candidates who invested at least $1 million of personal funds into their respective campaigns, the largest two self-funders, Rep. Chuck Goodrich (R) in CD 05 and former Indianapolis City-County Council member Jefferson Shreve (R) in CD 06 split, with Goodrich losing his challenge race and Shreve topping another seven-figure spender, Rep. Mike Speedy (R) in the open-seat race (a $2 million man, Sid Mahant (R), didn’t go to the gate after being bounced from the ballot by the Indiana Election Commission). In all fairness to Rep. Speedy, who invested some $1.3 million of his own money in the race, Shreve effectively outspent him by more than $10:1, given the approximate $13 million Shreve invested last summer and fall on television and radio in the Indianapolis mayoral race – perhaps the functional equivalent of a primary for him in advance of this primary. Tim Smith (R) in open seat CD 03 also spent more than $1 million from his own pocketbook and lost.

Among candidates seeming to have spent at least $500,000 but not $1 million or more on their races, former U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R) won in CD 03; U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R) won in CD 05; Jamison Carrier (R) lost in CD 06; and Dominick Kavanaugh (R) and Dr. Richard Moss (R) both fell short in CD 08.

In the gubernatorial race, those who were largely financed by family fortunes to the tune of seven- and eight-figures finished behind the top two contenders. Jefferson Shreve found that his $13.5 million in the 2023 Indianapolis mayoral race bought him about three or four points more than the average Republican rummy-dummy in that race, and that money and another $4.5 million+ in the congressional race purchased him only 28.4% in the CD 06 primary (less than the 40.5% share he won in the mayoral general election) . . . but that was sufficient to win Shreve the plurality in a six-candidate primary in which the arguably more conservative candidates split that ideological vote.


One former elected official told us the week before the primary that the top four issues this cycle were “the border, border, border, and China” – in both congressional and state races.

That seemed to prove prophetic. Most of the candidates for governor sparred over those issues (and not much more; those who sought to shift the focus to other concerns, such as Suzanne Crouch (R) and Brad Chambers (R) in the gubernatorial race didn’t fare well), and polls continued to show that the border was atop the minds of Hoosier GOP voters. Will this remain the case in the fall? Much of this depends upon the spotlight that this concern occupies in the presidential race.

We’re continuing to pick up on property tax concerns from residential and agricultural property owners, and it’s hard to see an open gubernatorial race turn on things that are almost entirely outside the control of an Indiana governor, but there are more of those pesky “known unknowns” about this fall’s presidential race than we possibly have ever seen in generations.

Then there’s the abortion issue, with the Democratic nominee for governor, Jennifer McCormick (D), pledging to make reproductive rights and women’s health and freedom the centerpiece of her (already cash-starved) campaign. The border bogeyman could prove to be the distraction that Republicans need through the summer. Remember the 2022 general election? Even with all of the voting in that general election coming with two months of the Republican governor and legislative supermajority convening a special session for the exclusive purpose of passing the nation’s then-most restrictive abortion law, recall  that no race favorably turned for Hoosier Democrats on that issue at any level.

Indiana Democratic Party Chair Mike Schmuhl wasted no time on election night serving notice that his candidates would be trying to flip the switch and returning this cycle top one premised on local issues. He sends an email asking for contributions based upon the premise that U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R) “has spent his time campaigning on issues that the governor can’t address, and partisan sideshows that ignore what most Hoosiers want. Jennifer McCormick is running on securing personal freedoms, protecting our schools, and growing healthcare opportunities.”

But Schmuhl offers a broader view of what you can expect from Democrats this fall: “Trump. Braun. Banks. Rokita. The Republican ticket in Indiana will be one of the most extreme in the entire nation, and Hoosiers deserve better than to be policy experiments for the extreme right.”

That’s a message that could well play in the metro donut . . . where former ambassador Nikki Haley (R) won about one-third of the vote in Marion County and a few surrounding collar counties and performed about as well in some other affluent areas of the state, such as Aboite Township in Allen County, “highlighting a vulnerability for Trump among critical suburban voters,” as the Wall Street Journal observed Thursday. “Haley scored her biggest Indiana vote shares in urban and suburban areas, as well as in the county that is home to Purdue University.”

Schmuhl is also eyeing picking off the more than 125,000 statewide voters for Haley . . . which at least one statewide hopeful suggests resulted largely from crossover voting by Democrats looking to affect the primary outcome.

By the way . . . Haley garnered 22% of the vote – more than one in every five votes if we remember our old ISTEP math – an impressive figure that the Drudge Report highlighted in red as a Tuesday night headline. That was her best showing in some two months, and it came in an overwhelming red state – and one in which she never even campaigned.

Governor’s Race

Sen. Braun was the clear winner of the ridiculously expensive Republican gubernatorial primary by 7:00 p.m., with Marion County votes not even counted. He won by positioning himself as a Trump-backed outsider, totally passing over his six years in the U.S. Senate and previous service in the General Assembly. His paid media also paid no heed to state issues, focused instead on his business experience, the need to close the border, and defending himself against attacks related to law enforcement personnel and public safety.

That he was the frontrunner from the get-go and won so handily without the same kind of statewide political network as we’ve come to expect from candidates such as Lugar, Bayh, Coats, Daniels, Pence, and Young – and without dipping back into his personal fortune (unlike a federal office race, contributions by individuals and certain entities to state candidates in Indiana are not capped) is a testament to the man and his close political circle. He had a message and stuck to it. Eight years ago the political jibe was, “Did you know Todd Young was a Marine?” This year it is “Did you know that Donald Trump is for Mike Braun?

The numbers never really changed from December, with the large number of undecideds that seemed to give some candidates some hope breaking largely in the rank order of voters who had already made up their minds. No candidate broke through, and none was willing to make a splash by pairing up before the convention with a pre-primary running mate for lieutenant governor, despite serious discussions held by each campaign (which we told you about as the calendar year opened). As we noted, there was a dearth of discussion of issues important to Hoosiers at the state level, with virtually all of that coming only when candidates were pressed in debates or by the media in specific interviews on specific topics.

Perhaps the sole true surprise was seeing former attorney general Curtis Hill (R) place dead last in the field, trailing even neophyte Jamie Reitenour (R), just eight years after he led the entire state ballot, even Donald Trump (R) in the 2016 general election. Hill has now lost his last three races in the last three cycles (his 2020 convention bid for renomination, a 2022 caucus loss for Congress for the CD 02 vacancy, and this gubernatorial race)  The candidate who placed last among all statewide GOP vote-getters in that same election, Jennifer McCormick, then the successful candidate for state superintendent of public instruction as the Republican nominee, is now the Democratic nominee for governor. Go figure. As POLITICO’s Adam Wren tweets, “the general election gubernatorial matchup will be between a former Democrat turned Republican (Sen. Mike Braun) and a former Republican turned Democrat (Jennifer McCormick).”

And what should we make of this milquetoast election night statement from Governor Eric Holcomb (R) – who not only assiduously avoided any primary endorsement of a possible successor, but also dissed each over lacking vision and a state issues-focused campaign? “Congratulations to Senator Braun on a decisive victory tonight. Now we all unite through November to keep Indiana on the fast track.” We’ve detected more enthusiasm from Colts fans during seasons with quarterbacks the likes of Pagel, Hogeboom, and Chandler.

The losing gubernatorial candidates did, however, play nice on primary night, with Crouch, Chambers, and Doden the latter in particular) offering kind words for the winner, and pledging their respective support headed into November.

Did some of them want to be considered for lieutenant governor? With Republicans running a statewide ticket that looked like it will be comprised of all white males (absent a potential LG candidate) and Trump, and Democrats likely to run three women, one Black, (absent a potential LG candidate) and Biden, Braun decided upon a woman, just like our last three popularly elected lieutenant governors (and four of the past five overall).

On Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Braun revealed freshman Rep. Julie McGuire (R) of Indianapolis as his pick for lieutenant governor, making the announcement in interviews on the Indianapolis Fox television affiliate and with the Indianapolis Star’s Kayla Dwyer . . . and which each outlet claimed as “exclusive.” The Braun campaign didn’t even, however, bother to send out a news release about the selection until after 6:00 p.m. well after both outlets broke the news, and the news had been reported on Indianapolis television at 4:00 p.m.; 5:00 p.m.; and 6:00 p.m.

The GOP gubernatorial nominee explains that he was drawn to  the lawmaker because she is “a strong conservative who has lived the values of faith, family, and community.” “Like me, Julie didn’t come from the farm system of politics,” Sen. Braun observes. “Her experience comes from the real world serving her neighbors, raising a family, and getting things done on issues like child services and health freedom. Julie shares my vision of making Indiana a national beacon of freedom and opportunity, and I’m proud to have her on the team.”

Sen. Braun’s choice of a freshman lawmaker as his LG preference isn’t a novel idea. In 2012, the GOP nominee, then-U.S. Rep. Mike Pence (R) did so, picking then-Rep. Sue Ellspermann (R) – who had taken a Democratic primary ballot in the last primary (2008) before she ran for the House (in 2010) – for his running mate. And if McGuire wins nomination and abdicates her House nomination, former Rep. Dollyne Sherman (R) could step back in via caucus (she won the vacant seat in a 2019 caucus before losing it to Jacob in the 2020 primary) without missing a beat, or Marion County Republican Party Chair Joe Elsener could also make himself available as a candidate.

If you look back at McGuire’s 2022 wind-aided primary win over then-Rep. John Jacob (R), you’ll be struck by how tightly controlled an effort it was. The House Republican Campaign Committee spent some $500,000 to promote her campaign, largely through vanilla-flavored television and radio spots that said nothing more about her or her background (she had been a House GOP policy aide and a church business manager) than that she was a pro-life mother guided by her faith. The first-time candidate said little off-script, and was largely not pressed by the local media or in community forums.

In her only term, Rep. McGuire has been active in clawing back at local Indianapolis fiscal initiatives, but, like most candidates for the state’s number two office over the decades – which is heavy on rural and agricultural issues – she has no particular background in either . . . though everyone elected to the office has always stepped up in that role. If nominated and elected, she would be first in line of succession to the office of governor under a governor who would turn 71 shortly after being sworn in. Braun would be the second-oldest person elected as governor, just about three months younger than former Gov. Frank O’Bannon (R) was when he was elected in 2000. Will that lead to extra scrutiny over whether she would be prepared or suited to become governor in an emergency, like second-term lieutenant governor Joe Kernan (D), a two-term mayor of one of Indiana’s five-largest cities (and the city controller before that)?

Social conservatives appear puzzled and upset about the pick – after all, she took out SoCon favorite Jacob two years ago – but instead of looking to take out their resentment on Braun, this becomes a rallying cry of sorts now for Team Beckwith. They want instead to force the new GOP gubernatorial nominee to add free agent lieutenant governor hopeful Micah Beckwith (R) to the Braun ticket.

Another concern among Republicans is that Rep. McGuire, an Indianapolis native, is widely unknown throughout the state, not having the need or opportunity to travel widely and build a political network. The McGuire pick, we’re told, came with a minimum of vetting by Team Braun, which felt pressure to quickly close the door and preempt Beckwith while checking as many boxes as possible.

If Braun doesn’t convince delegates to go along with the McPick at the June 15 convention, he’s politically wounded before he’s even sworn in, one former GOP official tells us . . . and, more importantly, he runs the risk of having what would amount to dual policy agendas from the governor and lieutenant governor.

There’s always some tension between governors and their LGs. Then-Lt. Governor Frank O’Bannon (D) told your favorite newsletter (with a twinkle in his eye) back in 1989 – just a few  months into his first year in office – after attending his first meeting of the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors that, at a closed-door meeting of LGs-only, “all they did was sit around and complain about how they didn’t get along with their governors, and all I could do was just sit there and not say anything!”

However, this would be more than just potential discomfort. Pastor Beckwith has spoken plainly and openly about having his own policy agenda that he could advance from his pulpit as lieutenant governor.

But we’re not sure whether the Hoosier sword of Damocles may still be hanging over the gubernatorial nominee’s head quite yet. We’ve seen no firm(ish) numbers on elected Republican convention delegates who might be “committed” to Beckwith. He ran an impressive delegate slate, and other GOP gubernatorial candidates– who had been warned that they needed to recruit and elect delegates who would be supportive of their eventual pick for the office – failed to heed the advice, or were unwilling to make the cash ($1.2 million was the number one was told would be necessary) or time (visiting living rooms, workplaces, and making phone calls) in what amounted to mounting a convention effort that would have to be conducted in parallel to their own respective traditional primary campaigns.

In a Wednesday Facebook video, Beckwith tells his faithful backers that “From my perspective, the delegate races, the delegates, I think, it went pretty well. We’ve heard all over the state that we’ve got a lot of – we’re doing the numbers right now, but we’ve got a lot of positive news coming from around the state.”

In his home Hamilton County, Beckwith claims that in the three townships with Democratic crossovers, “we held the line pretty well, but then in the outskirts, where we had  more delegates, the God and country people, we really did well.” He notes winning 12 of the 15 delegate spots in one of those townships, “so we’re seeing that kind of thing around the state, so that’s really good …. But we’re just getting started; we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and the convention.”

After Braun announced his preference for McGuire, Beckwith jumped back on social media to declare, “while this is a solid choice, we believe a Mike Braun-Micah Beckwith team would be exceptional! Ultimately, it’s up to the elected convention delegates to decide this race, and they will have a VOICE and a CHOICE at the Indiana GOP State Convention – exactly as it should be.”

Beckwith, by the way, is not opposed to returning to nominating conventions for statewide candidates, also helping to prevent “chaos” from crossovers, as well as to keep the costs of campaigning down.

As for nominee Braun, “I look forward to working with Mike. I think he’s a bold leader. I think he’s a strong leader, and I’ll just give it some backbone and courage and you know, hopefully some Godly wisdom as the lieutenant governor, and be able to push an amazing agenda, a Republican agenda that’s rooted in constitutional principles, because that’s what’s really going to help our state.”

Beckwith is still plowing full speed ahead with his effort, and his campaign is holding a May 20 fundraiser in Zionsville co-hosted by Tony Samuel, vice chair of the 2016 Trump Indiana campaign.

We’re also picking up signals that a third candidate for LG could be inserted into the fray by social conservatives as an alternative to McGuire who might be more “mainstream acceptable” than Beckwith. We’re hearing the names of just-defeated gubernatorial candidate Doden and former Indiana Republican party chair Jeff Cardwell, who once served on the Indianapolis City-County Council.

And remember the Schmuhl Democratic narrative on the fall race? The Indiana Republican Party also released a statement about the race, welcoming Dr. J to the fray: “Throughout the course of this campaign, Hoosier’s (sic)deserve an opportunity to get to know the real Jennifer McCormick, although her well-known streak of misleading Hoosier’s (sic) by saying and doing anything to get elected might make that task difficult. The fact is Jennifer McCormick is another liberal Democrat running to promote the Biden agenda in Indiana. Time and again, Hoosiers have rejected extreme Democrats like Dr. McCormick, and we intend to work with Mike Braun to ensure the result is the same this November.”

One radical agenda vs. another. You also shouldn’t forget Donald Rainwater (L), who eked out 11.4% of the 2020 gubernatorial vote in the Covid election simply by being “None of the Above.” Game on, eh?

While it’s always wrong to make definitive statements about any race this early, you shouldn’t be offended if you see workers measuring the drapes in 206 shortly after the state Republican convention.

Democrats hope for low turnout, lots of female voters, and an electorate tired of Trump drama to give McCormick a chance – and that’s just a chance – until Beau Bayh (D) has had the chance to circulate through each county a few times between now and the 2026 secretary of state race.

Legislative Races

Nothing to see here . . . but there will be at least 10 House members in January who were not among those elected in November 2022, meaning that at least 10% of each body will see double-digit percentage turnover over the last cycle or so.

We already noted the Negele upset, but we were first to tell you (and her) that she had a credible elected official opponent, a disabled veteran serving on the Warren County Council, opening up a campaign for her seat early last year, with backing from some key GOP officials in the district. One of the best-liked and quietly effective lawmakers, she’ll be missed, just as the 2022 loss of then-Rep. Dan Leonard (D) ran deep. Unlike the Leonard loss, this race was not fought over ideological principles, but rather challenger Matt Commons’ desire for more attention to be paid to issues impacting rural communities.

Rep. Jim Lucas also survived his challenge, perhaps due to big-buck backing from his caucus. That support came in spite of his love-hate relationship with the caucus and leaders, but we did point out his significant five-figure cash commitment to House Republican Campaign Committee coffers before the 2022 primary.

In Noblesville, Alaina Shonkwiler (R) emerges victorious from a primary generational slugfest with fellow Spartz alum Laura Alerding (R) to claim the nod for the seat abandoned by Rep. Goodrich.

With the retirement of Rep. Dennis Zent (R), Steuben County Councilmember Tony Isa (R) of Angola, easily outdistances Dr. Rhonda Sharp (R), of LaGrange, a family physician with Parkview LaGrange  who had the backing of several big interest groups. In the end, it appeared as though Isa was going to be the winner. Isa, who convinced another former local official out of the race well before filing opened, was propelled by a huge win in Steuben County vs. first-time candidate Sharp’s lesser margin in LaGrange County.

HRCC support may have also propped up Rep. Bruce Borders (R) in his three-way battle with former Rep. Jeff Ellington (R) – whom Borders ousted from the House in a nasty 2022 primary when Ellington chose to run in the Borders district after redistricting – and Knox County Commissioner Kellie Streeter (R). Elvis does not leave the building, leading second-place Streeter by 323 votes.

Former Indianapolis Colts punter Hunter Smith (R) overcomes a push by Hamilton County Republicans to keep open seat HD 24 in the hands of a Carmel or Westfield resident, but the well-liked Zionsville denizen will face spirited Democratic opposition from Westfield attorney Josh Lowry (D) in a district with a rapidly changing population that could be purple on national issues.

Andrew Ireland, as we mentioned, clinches a close win in the multi-candidate HD 90 race, and the never-outworked former gubernatorial aide Ethan Lawson (R) overcomes lots of interest group money and endorsements for Kevin Mandrell to win a three-way contest in open seat HD 53. Finding the cash to fund some final week television certainly didn’t hurt his effort. Lawson’s many friends in the State House – who spent lots of time in Hancock County and environs campaigning for him – will welcome him back to the State House in this safe GOP seat.

Sen. Dave Niezgodski (D), beset by an embarrassing personal scandal in a matter that may not yet be behind him, easily cast aside his challenger, as did Sen. Mike Bohacek (R), though Bohacek – not exactly beloved by his majority colleagues – was unable to earn a majority of the votes in his multi-candidate contest. Bohacek a former Democrat, benefited from Democratic crossover votes in LaPorte County, where there was a dearth of Democratic races and a hot GOP county office face-off involving a thorn in the side to local Demos and the Bohacek contest (in addition to the gubernatorial battle). LaPorte County Republican Party Chair Allen Stevens tells that “at least 700 [R]epublican ballots were pulled by people who cast [D]emocratic ballots in the 2022 primary.”

In Lake County, Sen. David Vinzant (D) of Hobart, just installed at the beginning of session after a one-vote win in a caucus revote (which, we were later told, was paving the way for this primary loss), fell to Gary City Councilmember Mark Spencer (D), a 33-year-old educator who had lost the caucus nod to Vinzant despite the support of the outgoing senator and incoming Gary mayor, Eddie Melton (D). This will mean the ranks of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus should grow by at least one.

Former Hendricks County sheriff Brett Clark (R) wins the open seat SD 24 race over a female county party official, and Sen. Mike Young (R) wins a close race over a young Black elected official from Plainfield.

Apropos of Nothing (or Something)

The House primary races were largely decided on local issues and personalities, and not on outside group spending. The House Republican Campaign Committee may have helped to save Rep. Jim Lucas (R) (and how will the caucus be thanked?), but had no impact in the race lost by Rep. Sharon Negele (R) (who could have been a Braun LG pick, thus opening the seat for Matt Commons (R), who beat her).

Rep. Lucas lost his home Jackson County – he attributes that to a strong crossover vote by Democrats – but still collected about 58% of the total HD 69 vote. What was important below the surface in the HD 13 Negele race, beyond a strong grassroots ground game by Commons,  was a concern among the “Stop the Steal” voters that the deputy speaker pro tem did not do enough with her leadership post and influence to move the needle on the LEAP project Wabash River aquifer water withdrawal issue.

While the outside groups didn’t play in this cycle, leadership (in the Senate as well) must be concerned about the prospect of groups such as Americans for Prosperity Action and Club for Growth, which played in congressional primaries, looking to pick off incumbents in the future, setting of potential big-buck intramural battles in seats that will always be held by a Republican anyway.

We were struck by the number of people with whom we interacted over the last few months who professed to have not seen ads for any of the major state or congressional candidates because they do not watch broadcast television or any of the local television new shows. While national stories have described how younger generations have figuratively “cut the cable” and only subscribe to streaming services, it’s not just first-time Hoosier Gen Z voters who are doing so. This phenomenon appears to have spread far more broadly across all generations, with even aging Baby Boomers –  those of the 70+ Biden, Trump, Crouch, Braun generation – changing their television habits so they miss (in the literal, not figurative, sense) those millions of dollars’ worth of broadcast spots.

One Millennial congressional candidate, Max Engling (R) in CD 05 (whom we expect to see again in a future race here), spent a modicum of money on streaming ads, but we expect that in future cycles, strategists will re-evaluate the value of broadcast television ads versus other mediums (note the rise of digital ads over the past two cycles, even with dubious click-through rates and questions about how effective they may be simply by serving up multiple impressions for messaging; we’d  be curious to hear about the impact of the ubiquitous Goodrich digitals ads with their simple and consistent branding theme). We were asked by many well-educated friends and colleagues (some of them current or former elected officials who had served or worked with some of the candidates) for advice about how they should vote in the GOP gubernatorial race, and we heard similar stories from others about being queried by those whom they thought should have had well-formed thoughts about the candidates.

Democrats nominated – by a large margin – their first Black female candidate for U.S. Senate, Dr. Valerie McCray (D). The psychologist becomes the first woman since a pre-congressional Dr. Jill Long (D) in 1986 to be nominated for an Indiana  U.S. Senate seat (Dr. McCormick, a doctor of education ironically, is the first woman to be nominated for governor since former U.S. Rep. Long Thompson, a doctor of business, in 2008). A real medical doctor, Dr. Woody Myers (D), was the 2020 Democratic nominee, with the former state health commissioner failing to even achieve the traditional Democratic baseline in the Covid-dominated election year.

If elected, Dr. McCray pledges to “fight for mental health care, breathable wages, and reproductive rights!” Her election night commitment was silent about the border, crime, or foreign policy.

You should note that Dr. McCray failed to attract anywhere near the required number of signatures for ballot access. No one challenged her candidacy, including her opponent, former Rep. Marc Carmichael (D), who had to pay different firms to secure the requisite signatures. We’re told that long-time lobbyist Carmichael felt confident enough in support from party officials across the state that he could win the primary on his own, and that he was a bit hinky about the optics of challenging such an underdog before the Indiana Election Commission (you saw how some of those kinds of battles ended up backfiring in 2022 and didn’t look good heading into the 2024 primary races as well). Don’t look for anyone

to make that mistake again going forward.

Don’t be too impressed (fooled?) by the Democratic diversity. Since 1996, no Democrat has even been elected to a statewide state office which still exists. The last Democrat elected to statewide state office (state superintendent of public instruction) was Glenda Ritz (D) in 2012 – and she was defeated in 2016 by then-Republican McCormick in the last election before the office was phased out.

So  how did all those attack ads work out? Tough to say. We find it hard to believe that anyone who remembers the congressional tenure of former U.S. Reps. John Hostettler (R) or Marlin Stutzman (R) view them as soft on the border and immigration issues, and no one likely believes that Sen. Braun is a tax-raising open borders “RINO Squish.” Nor is it likely that voters consider Rep. Mike Speedy (R) to be a flaming liberal or that Rep. Chuck Goodrich (R) is a Chinese communist sympathizer who wears pink tutus when he’s not clad in Chinese track suits (or Gaylor Electric gear; Gaylor was probably the biggest beneficiary of the CD 05 advertising, but for her sake, we hope that former state auditor Tera Klutz (R), who stepped down in mid-term to largely serve as Gaylor’s COO in Goodrich’s expected short- and long-term absence, has an iron-clad contract).

At the same time some of the advertising directed at lesser-known hopefuls, such as Tim Smith (R) and Wendy Davis (R) in the razor-thin CD 03 race obviously made a difference, and the Speedy ads reminding voters of everything Jefferson Shreve ever said or did in his mayoral race likely held down his margin, particularly in the eastern part of the district, where he was largely a cipher.

The Israel-themed spots also likely helped spell the end for Hostettler, who, per his standard operating procedure, failed to raise any cash to fight back. But as the Hostettler père was unable to generate any traction, his son, Rep. Matt Hostettler (R), cruised to an easy renomination, capturing almost two-thirds of the vote.

Candidates who widely touted (and, in some cases, relied upon) endorsements from actual current or former officials – instead of generic endorsements from, for example” “the law enforcement community:” or “law enforcement professionals” – were unable to capitalize upon them by converting the backing into votes. Cases in point: the campaigns of Crouch and Goodrich, as well as CD 06 hopeful Jamison Carrier (R) and HD 53 open seat candidate Kevin Mandrell (R).

While we’re largely still chatting about the congressional races, you should note that with the results in CD 03, CD 06, and CD 08, first-time (we’re considering Stutzman in this camp for this race) primary winners again have been held to less than a majority. More baldly stated, assuming seats do not change party control in November, no Hoosier member of Congress will have won his or her initial term primary with a majority, save the asterisk hanging over U.S. Rep. Rudy Yakym (R), who won his first primary after being selected in caucus and first elected to Congress before facing the primary electorate.

There is, of course, another perspective from which to view Tuesday’s results: more people in their own party primaries voted against U.S. Rep. Spartz, Shreve, and Sen. Mark Messmer (R) in CD 08 than voted for them.

Republicans in CD 01 have their first credible candidate with elective experience running since, perhaps, the Great Depression (the one in the 1930s). Lake County Councilmember Randy Niemeyer (R) of South Lake County (Cedar Lake) enters the race with lots of local name ID and national GOP support in one of their targeted races.

In CD 03, five of the eight Republican candidates seeking the open seat were able to register double-digit vote percentages . . . but the winner, Marlin Stutzman, didn’t even harvest one out of every four votes (he earned 24.2% of the vote to become the plurality winner). We’re also intrigued by the fact that Stutzman will succeed Jim Banks again. Banks took over Stutzman’s state Senate seat, and then followed Stutzman to the U.S. House when Stutzman ran for the U.S. Senate. Now with incumbent Banks running for U.S. Senate, Stutzman seeks to return to his old House seat (and the House Freedom Caucus, of which he was a charter member).

After the results were in, the Spartz campaign distributed a statement boasting that “The Congresswoman won despite nearly $5 million of negative ads from her opponent and his allies.” Rep. Spartz herself adds, “My victory in this election is a testament to the American people and my fellow Hoosiers that money and lies do not buy elections. I am honored to represent Indiana and ready to get back to work to get our great Republic back on track.”

Voters in CD 05 will have two women representing the two major parties running for the seat, a phenomenon they have experienced dating back to the 2016 election – five consecutive cycles. Deb Pickett (D) can capitalize on her old GOP ties – her circle includes many Mitch Daniels alums, dating back to his return to the state from the Reagan White House in 1987 – and a long history of military service in her family (including her won and that of one of her daughters). Not the kind of progressive who is automatically dismissed by voters in the district, Pickett has lived overseas and understands the nuances of foreign policy and risk, and could surprise many – including her opponent – with her understanding of the world situation.

Sen. Jeff Raatz (R) finished fifth in CD 06, earning only nine percent of the vote, and placing behind 87-year-old former Sen. Bill Frazier (R), who last was elected to public office in 1968 (not a typo!). Also in CD 06, the Shreve campaign apparently had so much money at its disposal that radio spots slamming “liberal” Mike Speedy were still airing on Indianapolis radio as late as Thursday morning, two days after the election.

In CD 07, the winning candidate in the multicandidate race, Jennifer Pace (R), was unavailable for comment, given that she had passed away in March. CD 07 Republicans will hold a caucus to fill the vacancy, and rest assured that the nominee will not be “Honest Gabe” Whitley (R), who is rapidly becoming the Republican version of Bobby Kern (D) (IYKYK; he lost another local race Tuesday). Smart Indianapolis Republicans will be looking for a challenger for U.S. Rep. André Carson (D) who can play off his votes on Israel aid and the Gaza clash, and attract cash and votes from the local Jewish community (and it might be nice to choose a nominee who can actually vote in the race in November, unlike the out-of-district Carmel resident, a Jewish Ukrainian expatriate with an MBA who ran against Rep. Carson in 2022).

Finally, in CD 08, you should note that Sen. Messmer effectively doubled the vote percentage of the second-place finisher, former U.S. Rep. Hostettler.