INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana wasn’t a battleground state in the presidential election but has tight races for open U.S. Senate and governor seats. Republican Gov. Mike Pence pulled out of the contest for governor to become Donald Trump’s running mate and GOP Sen. Dan Coats is retiring. Democrat John Gregg hopes to end a 12-year Republican hold on the governor’s office by beating Pence’s replacement, Eric Holcomb, and GOP Rep. Todd Young aims to defeat Democrat Evan Bayh, who has never lost an election dating back to 1986.
Democrats also hope boost their Statehouse influence by holding onto the school superintendent’s office and gaining enough General Assembly seats to break the stranglehold that Republicans now hold on legislative action.
Here’s a guide to Tuesday’s action:
TRIUMPH FOR TRUMP
Trump won Indiana’s 11 electoral votes, which was likely even before he picked Pence as his vice presidential candidate in July.
Trump topped Democrat Hillary Clinton to become the 12th Republican to carry Indiana in the last 13 presidential elections.
Neither candidate paid much attention to Indiana during the campaign. Trump essentially clinched the Republican nomination with his victory in Indiana’s May primary.
BAYH WANTS JOB BACK
National groups have poured tens of millions of dollars into Indiana’s U.S. Senate race, which is one of a half dozen nationally that could determine whether Democrats take over the Senate majority.
Democratic former two-term governor and two-term U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh unexpectedly jumped into the race in July, bringing with him millions of dollars in campaign funds from his past races and an Indiana household name. It looked like he could walk back into his old job.
But he has faced a barrage of attacks over his Indiana residency and lucrative work in Washington, D.C., since leaving the Senate in 2010. Republican candidate Todd Young, a three-term congressman from southern Indiana, doesn’t have the name recognition of Bayh, whose father, Birch Bayh, was a U.S. senator in 1963-1981.
The winner will replace retiring Republican Sen. Dan Coats.
GREGG’S SECOND CHANCE
The race for the governor’s office features Democrat John Gregg against Republican Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, who was picked in July to replace Pence on the ballot. Gregg lost narrowly to Pence in the 2012 election.
Gregg’s campaign aimed to link Holcomb to controversies during Pence’s term such as Indiana’s 2015 religious-objections law that sparked a national uproar from gay-rights supporters. Holcomb touted the state’s improved fiscal condition under 12 years of Republican governors, but largely avoided mentioning Pence’s name.
Holcomb, who has never been elected to public office, is a former state Republican chairman and was appointed lieutenant governor in March after Pence’s previous running mate resigned. Gregg has been out of office since stepping down as the Indiana House speaker in 2002.
The state’s tightest congressional race is for the open seat representing southern Indiana’s 9th District. Republican Trey Hollingsworth is spending millions of his family’s fortune while Democratic candidate Shelli Yoder labels him a carpetbagger from Tennessee for moving to Indiana just last year. Young, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate, now holds the seat.
Republican state Sen. Jim Banks is set to win in northeastern Indiana’s strongly GOP 3rd District. Banks will replace Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman.
GOP SUPERMAJORITIES SLIP?
Democrats need to gain five seats in the 100-member House to break the two-thirds supermajority that allows Republicans to take action even if no Democrats are present. Republicans are trying to protect several seats in Democratic areas that they’ve won in recent years, particularly in northwestern Indiana.
Republicans appear likely to keep their supermajority in the Senate.
EDUCATION, LEGAL CHIEFS
The state schools superintendent has been the only state office that Democrats have controlled the past four years, during which Superintendent Glenda Ritz has had frequent clashes with Republican legislators and Pence over education policy. Ritz is seeing re-election against Republican Jennifer McCormick, who was critical of Ritz’s management of the Education Department and maintained she could work better with the General Assembly.
A new state attorney general will be elected in a race between Republican Curtis Hill, the prosecutor in northern Indiana’s Elkhart County, and Democrat Lorenzo Arredondo, a retired judge from northwestern Indiana’s Lake County.
HUNT AND FISH FOREVER
The right to hunt, fish and “harvest wildlife” would be added to the state constitution under a proposed amendment on the election ballot.
Supporters say the measure is needed to protect hunting from being endangered by animal rights groups. The National Rifle Association has pushed the proposal in Indiana and similar ones in several other states. The Humane Society says the amendment is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist because there is no movement to ban hunting and fishing.
ABSENTEE VOTING RECORD
Election officials say nearly 900,000 Indiana voters cast early ballots for Tuesday’s election, far surpassing the previous record set in 2008. Indiana Election Division co-director Brad King said Tuesday that county clerks had received more than 896,000 absentee ballots cast in person and through other methods by Monday’s early voting deadline.
That’s about 234,000 more ballots more than Indiana’s previous early voting record set in the 2008 general election.
King said mailed-in absentee ballots and overseas ballots from members of the military and Americans working overseas will continue arriving at clerk’s offices in the coming days.
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