Democrat Evan Bayh confirmed Wednesday that he will run for the U.S. Senate.
Bayh will take Baron Hill’s place on the Democratic ticket. Hill filed paperwork Monday to remove himself from the ballot. Reports quickly emerged that Bayh would be replacing Hill in the race.
“With the challenges facing Indiana and our country, I can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch as partisan bickering grinds Washington to a halt,” Bayh said in a written statement Wednesday morning. “Hoosier families deserve more and I’ve decided to run to take their cause to the U.S. Senate.”
The move comes just five years after the former governor left the Senate—opting not to seek a third term—because he said Congress had become too divisive.
Now, he says the reason he retired was to spend more time with his wife and twin sons, who are students at Harvard University.
“I see their future—and all of Indiana’s future—put at risk by a broken political system,” Bayh said. “I’ll work every day to put progress ahead of partisanship and to earn the support of Hoosiers so that we can get back to getting things done for Indiana.”
Bayh will face U.S. Rep. Todd Young, who won the Republican primary to become the GOP nominee for Senate. Young’s campaign has been critical of Bayh’s work since he left the Senate, calling him a “superlobbyist” who stayed in Washington, D.C., after retiring from the chamber.
The Indiana Democratic Party still needs to formally approve Bayh's request to fill the ballot vacancy. The party's chairman, John Zody, said Hill "showed courage by putting Hoosiers ahead of his own political future" when he cleared the way for Bayh to run.
"He and everyone else knows how high the stakes are in this election and the importance of protecting and fighting for the middle class in the U.S. Senate," Zody said in a written statement. "Indiana Democrats look forward to having a commonsense leader who will work with Sen. Joe Donnelly, and as our meeting to fill the vacancy approaches, I look forward to discussing Sen. Bayh’s candidacy with the State Central Committee.”
Bayh's return boosts the chances of Democrats to win the seat now held by Republican Sen. Dan Coats, who is retiring.
National Democrats have pushed for Bayh to enter the race, seeing him as having a better chance to defeat GOP candidate U.S. Rep. Todd Young, who doesn't have Bayh's name recognition or campaign cash.
Republicans have already attacked Bayh for remaining in Washington, where he has been partner at the McGuireWoods law firm and joined several corporate boards.
Democrats need to net four or five seats to win back Senate control — four if they hang onto the White House and can send the vice president to break ties in the Senate; five if they don't. With a handful of competitive races around the country, one seat can make all the difference, and putting Indiana in play could be crucial.
Even if Bayh can't win his old seat back, his candidacy would force Republicans to spend money in a state they had no plans to invest in. The latest federal reports show that Bayh had nearly $9.3 million in his campaign account at the end of March, while Young's campaign announced Monday that he had about $1.2 million in the bank on June 30.
Bayh's absence from politics won't hurt him much despite the Indiana trending Republican in recent years, said former Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke, a Republican who lost to Bayh in the 1998 Senate race.
"All the sudden Todd Young has gone from being the favorite to being the underdog," said Helmke, an Indiana University public affairs professor. "All the sudden, rather than being in a positon where they have a money advantage, they have a disadvantage."
While Republicans are attacking Bayh for living and working in Washington after leaving the Senate, Helmke pointed out that Coats survived similar criticism from Democrats in 2010 when he made his own Senate comeback after 12 years out of office.