The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 11:16 pm

GOP Senate candidates crisscrossing 'a big state'

Brian Francisco | Washington editor

Congress is on its yearly summer break. When House members return to Washington on Sept. 8, they will have had a stretch of 39 consecutive days away from Capitol Hill.

What once was called a recess is now described by lawmakers as a district work period. Regardless of terminology, legislators get a month back home to campaign for re-election if they wish.

This is not a congressional election year, but Reps. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, and Todd Young, R-9th, are gearing up for one. They and former Indiana Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb seek the GOP nomination next May for an open Senate seat.

The lone candidate for the Democratic Party nomination had been former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill. But John Dickerson, longtime executive director of the Arc of Indiana, an advocacy organization for people with disabilities, sent a media advisory Friday afternoon about plans to announce, at 10:30 a.m. today in Indianapolis, a run for U.S. Senate.

And so Stutzman and Young are spending much of this month looking for votes, volunteers and money, not just in their districts but around Indiana.

"It’s just a lot of multitasking and balancing, both the congressional responsibilities in Washington and here at home in the district and then also campaigning. It’s made my schedule much busier," Stutzman said in an interview Monday at the IPFW job fair he sponsors every August.

The Howe resident ticked off his itinerary: After touring the job fair, he was heading to a fundraiser in Angola, and he had fundraising events planned the next day in Indianapolis in the morning, Elkhart in the afternoon and Fort Wayne in the evening.

Since his return from Washington, Bloomington resident Young has made campaign appearances in South Bend and Evansville, spoken to a broadcasters organization and met with southern Indiana constituents to discuss whatever issues they brought up, according to campaign spokesman Trevor Foughty.

Foughty said Young is doing more informal "meet-and-greets" with prospective supporters around the state than he is fundraising events.

"August is absolutely the worst month to do fundraisers, … because so many people are gone on vacation and trying to get stuff done before kids go to school, and then kids do go back to school and sports start up," Foughty said in a telephone interview. "We don’t do a lot of fundraising events in August."

Young enjoyed a fundraising advantage to start the summer. According to the latest campaign finance reports, he was sitting on $2 million in cash as of June 30, compared with $749,000 for Stutzman and $277,000 for Holcomb.

Holcomb has been in full campaign mode since his former boss, Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., announced in late March that he will not seek re-election next year. Holcomb, an Indianapolis resident, attended at least two dozen public events, mostly county GOP dinners, in April, May and June, and his Facebook page displays recent photos of him marching in parades in Mooresville and Carmel and shooting basketballs at hoops in Berne, Portland and Knightstown.

"Eric continues his travels to places obvious and obscure and will complete his first round of visiting the 92 counties by the end of the month," Holcomb campaign spokesman Pete Seat said in an email. "The difference when it comes to Eric is this isn’t the first time he’s been to any of those counties."

IPFW political scientist Michael Wolf said Holcomb is "perfectly connected for a ground war because of his past and because he is in the state and able to keep those connections. … Retail politics, shaking hands."

To counter that, Stutzman and Young "sit on committees that can help them raise a ton of money" for their campaigns, Wolf said, giving them advantages in a TV advertising "air war" next spring. Young is on the House Ways and Means Committee, while Stutzman is a member of the House Financial Services and Budget committees.

Those panels mean more to political action committees than to most Hoosier voters, Wolf said in a phone interview.

"In Washington, Ways and Means is where it’s at," he said. "You’re a power player. But in Kokomo, Indiana?"

Their campaign finance reports show that Stutzman had spent more than $423,000 on his Senate bid through June, Young about $267,000 and Holcomb less than $56,000. Stutzman announced his candidacy May 9, and Young announced his July 12, though each had already been preparing to run.

The candidates cross paths on occasion. All three spoke at an Aug. 8 picnic in Shelby County hosted by Rep. Luke Messer, R-6th, and they are scheduled to attend the Whitley County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner, at which Stutzman will be the keynote speaker Tuesday evening.

This is the first statewide campaign for Young. Before going to the GOP event in Columbia City, he will spend Tuesday in Fort Wayne meeting with past and potential contributors and people interested in becoming campaign volunteers, Foughty said.

Young is "getting around the different parts of the state, meeting new people," Foughty said.

Holcomb managed then-Gov. Mitch Daniels’ 2008 re-election campaign, and he traveled Indiana as state GOP chairman. He has not previously been a statewide candidate.

"Eric didn’t need elective office to build a robust statewide network of support, and that’s reflected in the endorsements we have announced to date," Seat said, referring to the publicized support of Republican officials and leaders in various parts of the state.

Stutzman, then a state lawmaker, ran for the GOP nomination for the Senate in 2010, finishing second to Coats in a field of five candidates. Asked what he learned from that race that he could apply to his current campaign, Stutzman replied: "Well, it’s a big state. People don’t realize how large the state of Indiana is, and to travel around the state, it takes a lot of work."


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