Mike Delph defeats challenger Corrie Meyer in bitter state Senate race

Mike Delph, a divisive Indiana state senator, withstood a competitive Republican primary challenge Tuesday night in District 29, defeating an establishment-backed opponent.

Delph defeated first-time candidate Corrie Meyer with 58 percent of the vote to her 42 percent, according to election results from the New York Times.

The district includes parts of northwestern Indianapolis, Zionsville and Carmel and is considered a safe Republican seat. Delph will take on Democrat J.D. Ford in the general election.

Delph was not available by phone Tuesday night to comment, but he did tweet that "all glory & honor and praise goes to my God, Lord & Savior Jesus Christ." He called his 14-year-old daughter Emma Delph the "MVP" of his team and a "calling machine."

In other Indiana Statehouse races, state Sen. Jim Merritt won a challenge from the right in Crystal LaMotte in District 31, Linda Rogers ousted state Sen. Joe Zakas in District 11, and Chuck Goodrich won the open Republican primary to replace state Rep. Kathy Richardson in District 29.

Delph has been in office since 2005, and Meyer is the former Carmel Redevelopment Commission executive director. Meyer received endorsements from six former and current Republican mayors in and near Senate District 29.

But on Tuesday night as she lost, some Republicans didn’t seem too happy with her. Marion County GOP Chairman Jim Merritt said her performance was lackluster.

“I think that he changed his strategy toward the end of the campaign with his advertising and talked about his opponent rather than just himself,” Merritt told IBJ. “His opponent really hadn’t come out and talked about herself. That was one of the catalysts for his victory.

“For all the money that was donated to her, and she probably won 43 percent,” Merritt said. "That demonstrates a weak candidacy with all the money that was spent.”

But Meyer defended her performance in the race.

"I’m so proud of the campaign we ran,” Meyer told IBJ. “I’m very gracious for that support and for the turnout of voters. i’m so happy that we came as far as we did. I have no regrets on how we ran this race."

Delph is a staunch conservative voice in the General Assembly, especially on issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and immigration.

But Delph's relationships with Republican leaders in the district and in the Senate are tenuous, and some of his moves have put him in conflict with others in the party.

In 2014, he heavily advocated to get a measure on the fall ballot that would have banned same-sex marriage in Indiana’s constitution, despite growing resistance among voters—even Republicans—to move in that direction. That same year, Senate leaders punished Delph after he tweeted about a private GOP caucus discussion about the same-sex marriage measure.

In this year’s session, Delph caused a stir when he proposed an amendment to a bill that would have lifted the ban on public spending on light-rail transit projects in central Indiana. The amendment would have required Indianapolis to prove that public transit money isn’t needed to fill potholes. The move by Delph effectively killed the bill.

Delph also voted for a bill this year that limits how local communities can regulate short-term rentals, like Airbnb. It’s a measure Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard opposed.

Ford, the Democrat who will take on Delph in the general election, released a statement saying that "Delph has been focused on serving himself."

"The people of Senate District 29 are ready for change," Ford said in a statement. "While my opponent has focused on in-party fighting and political grandstanding, I’ve been out in the district talking to voters about the issues that matter most to them."

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