BREAKING: IN-SEN: Ellsworth In

The Indiana Democratic Party is likely to select Rep. Brad Ellsworth as their candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Evan Bayh.

Ellsworth, a decorated sheriff, was first elected to Congress in 2006. He defeated 6-term Congressman John Hostettler–who was first elected as part of the GOP’s 1994 takeover of the House–61 to 39, the most lopsided margin of defeat for  any incumbent that year.

The Indiana Democratic Party is also expected to tap state Rep. Trent Van Haaften as their candidate for Ellsworth’s seat.



In an unexpected turn of events, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (D) has announced that he will not seek reelection in the fall:

Two-term Sen. Evan Bayh says ever-shriller partisanship and the frustrations of gridlock made it time for him to leave Congress. Republicans aren’t buying it, saying he and fellow Democrats sense that voters will be after their heads this fall.

The Indiana Democrat, a moderate who twice came close to being added to his party’s national ticket, said Monday he will not seek re-election this November. The announcement gives Republicans a strong chance of capturing his seat and makes it likelier that the 59 votes that give Democrats command of the 100-seat Senate will dwindle.

I can’t imagine Bayh worried about being defeated–he was elected statewide 5 times in Indiana, including 2 Senate terms, and he started 2010 with a staggering $13 million in the bank. In addition his likely Republican opponent, former Sen. Dan Coats, is–for lack of  a better word–a joke.

Not only that, but the filing deadline to run in this race is this Friday, meaning that any potential Democratic candidate has 4 days to collect 500 valid signatures from each of Indiana’s 9 Congressional districts.  Unless someone puts forth a herculean effort to get on the ballot, the Indiana Democratic Party will be the ones to select whose name will replace Bayh’s on the ballot.

I would also hope that most–if not all–of Bayh’s massive warchest is transferred to whoever eventually ends up being the Democratic candidate, considering that $13 million is a huge amount of money for a state like Indiana.

Overall, this is just a headache that the Democrats don ‘t need–it’s not a given that the Republicans will win this race, but the Dems are going to have to spend time and money fighting for a seat that, had Bayh not retired, would have easily remained in their column.

UPDATE: There has been some confusion about the filing deadline but–as you can see on one of the official signature forms–the filing deadline is noon today. Apologies for erroneously claiming that the deadline was Friday.

UPDATE II: There are rumors that a Bloomington cafe owner by the name of Tamyra d’Ippolito–obviously a political newcomer–might just have enough valid signatures to get on the ballot, making her the only Democratic candidate in the race.

Unsurprisingly, some conservatives are putting on their dirty tricks hat and are helping d’Ippolito gather the required signatures.

UPDATE III: A few hours after the filing deadline and state officials are saying that only Bayh had enough valid signatures to qualify as a Democratic candidate.

This gives the state Democratic Party the power to decide who will replace Bayh on the ballot. In all likelihood, it will probably be either Rep. Brad Ellsworth or Rep. Baron Hill.

UPDATE IV: The above-linked Politico article gives us a taste of what’s to come:

The state Democratic Central Committee, a group of 32 party leaders loyal to Bayh, must choose a candidate by June 30. Bayh’s late decision effectively prevented the prospect of a contested primary for his seat — and allows the senator to play a pivotal role in determining his successor.