Tea party targets GOP incumbents in Indiana races

Tea party conservatives who helped Republicans win seven of Indiana's nine U.S. House seats two years ago now are challenging some of those candidates amid growing dissatisfaction with Washington.

Freshman Rep. Susan Brooks in the 5th District in central Indiana and second-term Rep. Larry Bucshon in southern Indiana's 8th District face candidates supported by the tea party.

Brooks and Rep. Jackie Walorski in northern Indiana's 2nd District, who is running unopposed in the primary, received the lowest ratings among Indiana's delegation from the Club for Growth earlier this year. Bucshon fared better, but his opponent is making the case that he isn't conservative enough.

Although the congressional elections in 2010 and 2012 each featured three open seats, all nine incumbents are on the ballot Tuesday. Walorski, Democratic Rep. Pete Visclosky, who is seeking a 16th term in northwest Indiana, and freshman Luke Messer in eastern Indiana's 6th District are unopposed in the primary.

Democrat Andre Carson is expected to easily win re-election in the 7th District, which covers much of Indianapolis. But Republican-drawn congressional maps will make it difficult for Democrats to pick up a seat.

Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, said Democrats' best chance might be in the 2nd District, which Walorski won two years ago with 49 percent of the vote.

The seat was held by Democrat Joe Donnelly before he ran for Senate in 2012 and has long been viewed as a swing district, Downs said. But it has leaned more Republican since the maps were redrawn.

Two of the four Democrats vying for a chance to unseat Walorski in November have previous campaign experience.

Dan Morrison of Elkhart won nine of district's 10 counties and finished second in the Democratic primary in 2012. Joe Bock, a faculty member in Notre Dame's Eck Institute for Global Health, is a former Missouri state lawmaker.

Both said it's time to end the partisan gridlock in Washington.

"Americans are Americans. We've got these party things way out of whack," Morrison said. "Until we get Republicans and Democrats working together, things aren't going to get done."

In the 8th District in southwestern Indiana, Republican challenger Andrew McNeil is using a tactic that helped former state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a tea party-backed candidate, unseat longtime Sen. Richard Lugar in 2012. He says Rep. Larry Bucshon isn't conservative enough.

"I'm really concerned about the spending, the debt, the seemingly out-of-control Obama administration that just seems to violate the constitution with impunity and our party doesn't stand up real well," McNeil said.

Pam Claeys, 61, of South Bend hopes something will change in this year's elections.

"Congress is too disjointed. They're not working across the aisle," she said. "The country's a mess. Nothing's getting done."

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