Indiana Republicans appear likely to hold onto most competitive Statehouse seats

Republicans appear to be holding onto most of the competitive Indiana Statehouse seats and could possibly gain a couple seats, which is not an outcome most political observers expected.

Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer acknowledged the possibility before introducing Gov. Eric Holcomb at an election night event.

“What a night in Indiana,” Hupfer said. “We may pick up seats in the Statehouse.”

State Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, has opened up an 8-point lead over his Democratic opponent, Ashley Klein, although Hamilton County still has early votes it has not counted.

And Democrat challenger Fady Qaddoura had a slim lead over Republican Sen. John Ruckelshaus, a Republican who is finishing his first term in the Legislature. With only about 66% of votes counted, Qaddoura was winning the Senate District 30 race with 50.5% of the vote and a lead of only about 550 votes.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, and Rep. Donna Schaibley, R-Carmel, won reelection over their Democratic challengers.

Senate District 30 includes part of northern Marion County and southern Hamilton County and is known for having voters who are willing to split their ticket and support candidates of both political parties. Ruckelshaus was elected to the seat in 2016 with 51% of the vote, even as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won the district.

Collectively, the candidates spent more than $1 million on the race. Qaddoura is a former controller for the city of Indianapolis and now chief innovation officer for Katz, Sapper & Miller.

In the House District 39 race, Klein—a first-time candidate and real estate agent with F.C. Tucker—had a small lead in early returns over Torr, who was first elected in 1996. Klein had argued Torr was out of touch with constituents, and she and Democrat Aimee Cole, who ran against Huston, had co-sponsored an ad that portrayed the Republicans as part of 1950s era government.

Torr acknowledged the tough race and spent money on TV advertising and dedicated more time to campaigning that he had in previous races. He previously told IBJ that he believed Republican President Donald Trump’s waning popularity in his district was hurting his campaign.

But with 84% of the vote counted, Torr had opened up a 54% to 46% lead over Klein.

Huston had 58% of the vote to Cole’s 42% in the District 37 race. The AP said that was 100% of the vote, but Hamilton County officials said they had not yet counted all of the early votes.

And Schaibley was winning with 59% of the vote over Naomi Bechtold’s 431, according to AP totals.

Schaibley, a former substitute teacher for the Carmel Clay School District, was elected to the seat in a GOP caucus in 2014. During the 2020 legislative session, Schaibley was one of the top lawmakers involved with writing and passing legislation to address the high costs of health care.

Bechtold’s first jump into politics was in 2018 when she challenged Schaibley and earned 42% of the vote. She is an extension specialist for Purdue University’s Division of Consumer Science.

In other area races:

– Incumbent Sen. Jack Sandlin, R-Indianapolis, was winning with 57% of the vote over Democrat Ashley Eason with 71% of the vote counted in Senate District 36.

– Incumbent Rep. Melanie Wright, D-Anderson, was losing to Republican Elizabeth Rowray with 74% of the vote counted in House District 35. It was not clear whether those totals included early votes cast.

– Incumbent Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer, the Marion County Republican chairwoman, was leading Democrat challenger Mitch Gore with 54% of the vote to his 46%. However, only slightly more than half of the votes in the race had been counted in House District 89.

– Incumbent Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis, was leading with more than 55% of the vote over Republican challenger John Schmitz, who had 40%, with less 30% reporting.

– Republican Scott Baldwin, who is seeking to replace outgoing Republican state Sen. Victoria Spartz in Senate District 20, was leading over Democrat Ronald Saunders with 85% reporting, but Hamilton County still has absentee ballots to count.

– Incumbent Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, had a strong lead over Democratic challenger Belinda Drake in Senate District 32 with 71% reporting. Freeman had 65% while Drake had 35%.

– Incumbent Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, was up in his race over Democrat Pete Cowden as of midnight, but only about half of the votes had been counted.

– Republican Chris Jeter, who recently replaced former House Speaker Brian Bosma in House District 88, is up with 60% over Democrat Pam Dechert’s 40% with 84% of the ballots counted. It is unclear how many absentee ballots remain uncounted in that race.

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