U.S. Sen. Dan Coats will not seek reelection in 2016—a move that creates an open seat that could start a chain reaction of political moves in Indiana.
Coats, 71, said the decision not to run was difficult, but he’s “concluded that the time has come to pass this demanding job to the next generation of leaders.”
The decision was met with accolades for Coats and speculation on social media about who might replace him.
“Anyone who’s anyone will and should take a look,” tweeted Republican strategist Cam Savage, who has worked in Indiana and Washington, D.C.
He said those who say they know who is in or out of this race at this stage are “guessing.”
And Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, tweeted almost immediately that with Coats’ decision, the outlook for the race leans Republican. But he said that’s only if Democrat Evan Bayh—who previously held the seat—decides not to run.
“And I doubt he will,” Sabato said.
In fact, Bayh told the National Journal through a spokesman in January that he would not run. But that won’t stop the speculation, especially considering that Bayh has nearly $10 million sitting unused in a campaign account.
Among other Democrats who could consider running are former congressman Baron Hill, who has also expressed an interest in running for governor, and former gubernatorial nominee John Gregg.
The list of possible Republican candidates is long and includes Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and U.S. Reps. Todd Young, Marlin Stutzman, Todd Rokita and Susan Brooks.
Coats will be finishing up his second stint in Congress. He served from 1981 to 1999 before bowing out of a race against Bayh. The Democrat then served two terms before opting not to run again. Then Coats sought and won the seat again.
He also served as U.S. ambassador to Germany.
During his current term in the Senate, he serves on the Finance, Select Intelligence and Joint Economic committees. Coats is chairman of the bicameral Joint Economic Committee.
“Until the end of my Senate term, I pledge to my constituents that I will continue to focus all of my time and energy on the major challenges that Hoosiers sent me to Washington to address,” Coats said in a written statement.
Gov. Mike Pence said Coats will “bring to a close an extraordinary career in public service marked by humility, integrity, and a commitment to principled conservative leadership.”
“Through his long career in public service, whether it be his time in uniform, his service in the U.S. House and Senate or as our ambassador to Germany, few Hoosiers have made a greater contribution to our state or nation in public service than Sen. Dan Coats,” Pence said.
Young called Coats’ decision to retire a “huge loss for the state.”
“He has been a tireless advocate of conservative solutions on behalf of all Hoosiers,” he said. “He has been a tremendous leader within our congressional delegation, and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for all his help and support these past four years.”