Crowded Fourth District Field Offers Primary Voters Many Options

Published Saturday 24 of April, 2010

Mike Loizzo, WBAA

One of the most contested Primary races in Indiana is the Republican nomination for the 4th District Congressional seat. Thirteen candidates are trying to succeed incumbent Steve Buyer who announced his retirement earlier this year. On the Democratic side, a university professor hopes to win his party’s nomination for a third time.

While there are more than a dozen Republicans seeking the nomination, the race really comes down to two, maybe three candidates – Secretary of State Todd Rokita and state Senators Brandt Hershman and Mike Young.

Wabash College Political Science Department Chairman David Hadley thinks Rokita has the advantage.

“He, by virtue of running statewide twice and holding recognizable office for eight years, has clear name recognition,” says Hadley. “He has connections with people in the party and potential financial contributors throughout the state.”

But Rokita doesn’t seem to be taking that for granted. At a candidates’ forum in Lafayette, he made it clear he is different from the two state senators.

“The last thing we should do is raise taxes and some of the folks running for this very office were part of the largest tax increase on businesses in Indiana history — $737 million,” Rokita told the crowd. “I don’t care what the situation is, it is never the right thing to do to raise a tax. You control spending. You rein in government.”

The situation Rokita is talking about is the unemployment insurance tax increase, which would have made the state’s fund solvent and taken effect this year, but lawmakers delayed imposing it until next year, due to the economy.

Hadley thinks Hershman will remain competitive, because of his work as Congressman Steve Buyer’s director of district operations, but says it will be an uphill battle.

Hershman has the endorsement of Buyer, and some of the congressman’s former campaign staff is now working on Hershman’s behalf, so he’s up to the fight. He’s touting his ten-year record in the state senate.

On the Democrat’s side, Purdue professor David Sanders is the likely nominee. It will be a title he’s held twice before. One Democrat on the ballot decided not to campaign after disagreeing with the party’s handling of the federal health care reform vote last month. The other candidate, Tara Nelson, has done little campaigning.

Sanders, a professor of biological sciences at Purdue, ran unsuccessfully against Buyer in 2004 and 2006. He says this campaign will be different from the past.

“We’re being much more aggressive in terms of campaign fundraising this time than in the past,” says Sanders. “We also have a more extensive organization. A lot of people have recognized what’s transpired in this district in the last few years and they really want a change. They want someone to represent their interests. So, I have people working with me in almost all the counties, making it easier to organize the campaign.”