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Indiana candidates in attack mode for final push

October 24, 2014

Candidates for office throughout the state have been shifting this week to attack mode in the final stretch of campaigning ahead of Election Day.

Democratic secretary of state candidate Beth White accused Republicans in a Wednesday news conference of trying to suppress voter turnout. A few hours later, Republicans released a campaign mailer from White that did not include important language saying who paid for the mailer, a violation of state campaign laws.

Meanwhile, Democrat Mike Claytor, who is seeking the auditor's office, released a list of public records requests that had been turned down by statehouse Republicans. His opponent, Republican incumbent Suzanne Crouch, responded with an op-ed arguing that she has increased transparency in the office since taking over a little less than a year ago.

It's been a marked change in tone from just a few weeks ago, when statewide campaigns took to the airwaves with whimsical campaign ads introducing themselves to Indiana voters.

Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, said the timing is intentional.

Early in a campaign, Downs said, a candidate will try to secure a two-vote gain by flipping someone from supporting the opponent to supporting them. The opponent loses one vote and the candidate gets a new vote, creating a net gain of two votes.

But later in the campaign, candidates will try to deprive their opponents of supporters, a tactic that relies on dinging their opponent. Effectively, the opponent losing one vote amounts to a one-vote gain for the candidate.

"At this point in the campaign, you start going with the stuff that's a bit more critical and a bit more 'negative,'" Downs said.

The campaigning has not been as noticeable as it was two years ago, when major races for the governor's office and one of the state's two U.S. Senate seats dominated airwaves throughout most of the year. But the 2014 cycle kicked into full gear a few weeks ago as statewide candidates began buying up airtime and state House and Senate candidates increased their mailers and ad buys on local cable.

In Fort Wayne, a tight race for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Tom Wyss spurred Republicans to accuse of Democratic candidate Jack Morris of supporting President Barack Obama's agenda. Meanwhile, at the other end of the state, Senate Democrats looking to protect vulnerable incumbent Richard Young have accused his opponent, Republican Erin Houchin, of supporting former schools Superintendent Tony Bennett's agenda.

And in a tough race for the Senate seat representing Carmel, the sparring sides have focused on the gay marriage debate. Democrat J.D. Ford began airing an ad accusing Mike Delph of "harassing constituents on Twitter." Delph had tweeted about his unhappiness that fellow Republicans had scuttled efforts to get the gay marriage ban on the November ballot.

Delph's supporters, meanwhile, began circulating a YouTube clip of Ford answering a question about how to handle businesses that decline their services for a same-sex wedding. Ford answered, "Those businesses need to have a pail, for water, to put out their own fire."

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