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Stutzman, Young near end of biting GOP Senate campaign

April 29, 2016

The farmer versus the U.S. Marine—those are the wholesome self-portraits the two candidates seeking Indiana's Republican nomination for U.S. Senate have tried their best to paint for voters ahead of Tuesday's primary election.

But the race between U.S. Reps. Marlin Stutzman and Todd Young has featured increasingly biting exchanges, despite each campaigning as stalwart conservatives with similar platforms to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Dan Coats.

Young depicts the tea party-backed Stutzman as an ideologue who prioritizes obstructionism over passing legislation. Stutzman characterizes Young as an establishment pawn at a time when voters are increasingly frustrated with Washington.

Here is a profile of the race going into the May 3 vote:

The candidates

— Stutzman, 39, is making his second run for the Senate, after he finished second to Coats in the 2010 GOP primary. Stutzman, who is from Howe and co-owns family farm operations in northern Indiana, first won election to northeastern Indiana's 3rd District in 2010, being selected as the Republican nominee following the resignation of then-Rep. Mark Souder. Stutzman was a member of the state Legislature from 2002 until his congressional election. He is married with two sons.

— Young, 43, is a Naval Academy graduate who was a Marine Corps intelligence officer and aide to Sen. Richard Lugar. He received an MBA from the University of Chicago and a law degree from Indiana University. He was an attorney living in Bloomington when he narrowly won a four-way 2010 Republican primary and then defeated Democratic Rep. Baron Hill in southern Indiana's 9th District. Young is married with four children.

What's at stake?

The Indiana Senate race could have national implications as Democrats need to pick up at least four seats to retake control of the Senate.

Many Democrats hope Stutzman emerges from the primary to take on former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, who is unopposed for the Democratic Senate nomination. They view Stutzman as extremely conservative and outspoken, which could be a turn-off for voters as in 2012, when GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock made incendiary comments about abortion and lost to Democrat Joe Donnelly.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is spending $1 million on television ads supporting Young, who also has the backing of a political action committee with ties to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Stutzman has endorsements from former GOP presidential hopefuls Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Carly Fiorina, along with the anti-tax group Club for Growth. But outside groups backing Stutzman haven't matched the advertising support that Young has received.

Campaign conflicts

Stutzman has touted his willingness to oppose Republican congressional leaders who he argues have been too willing to compromise with President Barack Obama. He ties Young to the Washington establishment by pointing to his rival's votes in favor of raising the federal debt ceiling and supporting the deal ending the 2013 partial government shutdown.

Young has cast Stutzman as someone who hasn't achieved results for all his tough talk in Congress. Young criticizes Stutzman for taking stances against taxpayer subsidies while the Stutzman family farm operation has received nearly $1 million since 1995.

The Senate campaign took a bitter turn in February when Stutzman and the Indiana Democratic Party challenged Young's candidacy, arguing he didn't gather enough voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. An Associated Press count of Young's ballot petitions found he was three signatures short of the 500 required in one congressional district, but the state election board allowed Young to remain on the ballot.

Stutzman has defended his actions after the AP reported in April that his campaign paid more than $2,000 in airfares for his family to visit California last summer, an apparent violation of federal election laws. Stutzman's wife described the event on social media as a family vacation, but Stutzman says political business was conducted during the six-day trip.

Presidential impact

Young and Stutzman have each declined to endorse a presidential candidate, even as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz focused their bids for the Republican nomination on Indiana.

It is unclear what impact the expected greater voter turnout for the GOP primary could have on the Senate race. Stutzman could benefit from the anti-establishment fervor stoked by Trump and Cruz, with his support among tea partyers and involvement with the rebellious U.S. House Freedom Caucus that helped push former House Speaker John Boehner to resign.

In their words

Young — "I didn't go to Washington, D.C., to play games. I went to Washington, D.C., to cut spending, to create an environment where more jobs can be created that pay better and I've done that."

Stutzman — "I have been a strong, consistent conservative, one who has been willing to go to Washington and fight for those values."

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