After 2008 change, Indiana returns to GOP roots

Change didn't last long in Indiana.

The state that in 2008 chose its first Democrat for president since 1964 embraced Republicans across the ballot Tuesday as voters expressed concerns about the economy, big government and the Obama administration's health care overhaul.

Republicans picked up the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Democrat Evan Bayh and two southern Indiana congressional seats that had been held by Democrats Baron Hill and Brad Ellsworth, who lost the Senate race to Dan Coats. They also appeared poised to claim a two-thirds majority in the Senate and take control of the state House of Representatives.

Even with some races undecided late Tuesday, Republicans were assured of winning at least 55 seats in the 100-member House, with at least 10 seats switched from Democratic hands to the GOP's.

The wins will give Gov. Mitch Daniels and his Republicans colleagues control over writing a new two-year state budget next year and redrawing the boundaries of Indiana's congressional and legislative districts.

Daniels actively recruited Republican candidates to challenge Democratic incumbents, with his Aiming Higher political action committee providing key financial support.

"It'll be much easier to keep the books of the state in balance and keep Indiana as virtually the only state in the black without raising taxes," Daniels said.

Republicans picked up at least three seats from Democrats in Senate races after entering the day needing only one to gain at least a two-thirds majority, and with it the power to conduct business without any Democrats present.

With Republicans controlling the governor's office and the Senate, only a 52-48 Democratic majority in the House had stood in the way of Daniels' legislative initiatives. Daniels said local government reform bills had passed the Senate only to die in the House.

"We hope that those will at least get a fair hearing over there," the governor said.

The Democratic incumbents going down to defeat included House Majority Leader Russ Stilwell, the second-in-command to outgoing Speaker Patrick Bauer of South Bend.

"We will live to fight another day," said Bauer, who won re-election comfortably.

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