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Indiana at center of political maelstrom in 2016 election

November 8, 2016
Voting - Immaculate Heart 2016 500px

Indiana has been in the middle of the nation's political maelstrom this year, with Gov. Mike Pence on the Republican national ticket as Donald Trump's running mate and high-profile, big-money contests for U.S. Senate and the governor's office.

Democrats are aiming to boost their Statehouse influence by holding onto the school superintendent's office and gaining enough General Assembly seats to break the stranglehold that Republicans now hold on legislative action.

Here's a guide to Tuesday's action:

Triumph for Trump?

Trump is expected to easily win Indiana's 11 electoral votes, which was likely even before he picked Pence as his vice presidential candidate in July.
The Republican presidential candidate has carried Indiana all but one time since 1964. Neither the Trump nor Hillary Clinton campaigns paid much attention to Indiana, but Republicans hope a big Trump margin will boost their candidates in other races.

Trump essentially clinched the Republican nomination with his landslide victory in Indiana's May primary.

Bayh wants job back

National groups have poured tens of millions of dollars into Indiana's U.S. Senate race, which is one of a half-dozen nationally that could determine whether Democrats take over the Senate majority.

Democratic former two-term governor and two-term U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh unexpectedly jumped into the race in July, bringing with him millions of dollars in campaign funds from his past races and an Indiana household name. It looked like he could walk back into his old job.

But he has faced a barrage of attacks over his Indiana residency and lucrative work in Washington, D.C., since leaving the Senate in 2010. Republican candidate Todd Young, a three-term congressman from southern Indiana, doesn't have the name recognition of Bayh, whose father, Birch Bayh, was a U.S. senator in 1963-1981.

The winner will replace retiring Republican Sen. Dan Coats.

Gregg's second chance

The race for the governor's office features Democrat John Gregg against Republican Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, who was picked in July to replace Pence on the ballot. Gregg lost a close race to Pence in the 2012 election.

Gregg's campaign aimed to link Holcomb to controversies during Pence's term, such as Indiana's 2015 religious freedom law that sparked a national uproar from gay-rights supporters. Holcomb touted the state's improved fiscal condition under 12 years of Republican governors, but largely avoided mentioning Pence's name.

Holcomb, who has never been elected to public office, is a former state Republican chairman and was appointed lieutenant governor in March after Pence's previous running mate resigned. Gregg has been out of office since stepping down as the Indiana House speaker in 2002.

Congressional carpetbagger?

The state's tightest congressional race is for the open seat representing southern Indiana's 9th District. Republican Trey Hollingsworth is spending millions of his family's fortune while Democratic candidate Shelli Yoder, a former Miss Indiana, labels him a carpetbagger from Tennessee for moving to Indiana just last year.

Hollingsworth's camp has labeled Yoder a liberal who will raise taxes, repeal gun rights and weaken the military.

Young, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate, now holds the seat.

Republican state Sen. Jim Banks is set to win in northeastern Indiana's strongly GOP 3rd District. Banks will replace Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman.

GOP supermajorities slip?

Democrats need to gain five seats in the 100-member House to break the two-thirds supermajority that allows Republicans to take action even if no Democrats are present. Republicans are trying to protect several seats in Democratic areas that they've won in recent years, particularly in northwestern Indiana.

Republicans appear likely to keep their supermajority in the Senate.

Education, legal chiefs

The state superintendent of public instruction has been the only state office that Democrats have controlled the past four years, during which Superintendent Glenda Ritz has had frequent clashes with Republican legislators and Pence over education policy. Ritz is seeing re-election against Republican Jennifer McCormick, who was critical of Ritz's management of the Education Department and maintained she could work better with the General Assembly.

A new state attorney general will be elected in a race between Republican Curtis Hill, the prosecutor in northern Indiana's Elkhart County, and Democrat Lorenzo Arredondo, a retired judge from northwestern Indiana's Lake County.

Hunt and fish forever

The right to hunt, fish and "harvest wildlife" would be added to the state constitution under a proposed amendment on the election ballot.

Supporters say the measure is needed to protect hunting from being endangered by animal rights groups. The National Rifle Association has pushed the proposal in Indiana and similar ones in several other states. The Humane Society says the amendment is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist because there is no movement to ban hunting and fishing.

Absentee voting record

The Indiana Secretary of State's office says 4,829,111 Indiana residents are registered to vote in Tuesday's election.

As of Monday, a record 880,000 Indiana voters had cast absentee ballots — or 18 percent of registered voters — mostly through in-person early voting. A final absentee ballot count was pending.

Polling sites open to voters at 6 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday in 80 of Indiana's 92 counties. Voting sites open an hour later in 12 counties in northwestern and southwestern Indiana that are on Central Standard Time. All Indiana polling sites will close at 6 p.m. local time.

 

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