Races to watch in the 2016 primary

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The ballots are set for the 2016 primary in Indiana, and the lineup is a little mundane.

Most incumbents will have an easy spring without primary challengers. And there were no last-minute gubernatorial candidate surprises sneaking in before today’s noon candidate filing deadline.

Don’t worry, we’ll still find plenty of juicy election news to write about, and we're certain there will be enough buzz to keep you interested. A handful of races have already snagged our attention.

Here’s what we’re tracking so far:

• It’s looked this way for a while now, but today made it official: Neither Republican Gov. Mike Pence or Democrat John Gregg will face primary challengers in the governor’s race. That wasn’t always a sure thing, given Pence’s vulnerability after the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act and LGBT debates. It’s no secret that Republican politicos and donors floated the idea of supporting another candidate—House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, even admitted he was approached—but it never amounted to anything. And the Democrats had a few other candidates of their own—remember when state Superintendent Glenda Ritz was running for governor?—that didn’t stick. State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, was in the race briefly and former Evan Bayh aid Tom Sugar gave it a serious look.

• Two-time incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks gained a couple last-minute opponents in the 5th District congressional race, but neither one seems like cause for legitimate concern. Republican Mike Campbell filed to run against Brooks in 2014, but didn’t appear to actually campaign. He also lists an address in Cambridge City, which is not in the 5th district. That’s legal but not always politically popular. Her other opponent will be Fishers resident Stephen MacKenzie, who is a business consultant for FASTSIGNS International Inc. The 5th district includes the northern portion of Marion County, the northern suburbs of Indianapolis and stretches up to Marion.

• It’s been known for a while, but it’s still interesting that longtime incumbent Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, will have a challenger for his Senate seat. Westfield resident Scott Willis has filed to run against the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman. Willis is the founder of two companies—Arnett Management Solutions Inc., which helps staff companies of various sizes, and Jarhead Holdings LLC, which invests in commercial and residential real estate in Hamilton County. The last time Kenley, who has been a senator since 1992, had a primary opponent was in 2008—and he won with 85 percent of the vote.

• In her first reelection race, state Rep. Donna Schaibley, R-Carmel, could face a tough challenge against tea party activist Greg Fettig for the 24th district, which covers Hamilton and Boone counties. Schaibley narrowly won the seat in a caucus election in December 2014 after Rep. Steve Braun resigned. Fettig led the group that helped then-state treasurer Richard Murdock defeat longtime U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar in the primary election. He works for WestPoint Financial Group and is serving on the board of directors of Purdue Alumni Association of Indianapolis.

• In the 39th House District, Mary Castle Elementary School Assistant Principal Tom Linkmeyer has filed to run against Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, who has been serving since 1996. Torr is the chair of the Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee in the House and authored the legislation that required Indiana to observe daylight saving time in 2005. He is vice president of Carmel-based real estate company Hamilton National Title LLC.

• And here’s a fun race to watch for fans of local politics: Two former Indianapolis City-County Council members who just gave up their seats to new councilors will square off in the Republican primary for the state Senate seat in District 36, currently held by Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood. Jefferson Shreve, the founder of Storage Express, will face Jack Sandlin, a private investigator. Waltz is running in another crowded race, the 9th District congressional race.

Read more stories about the 2016 election at our Ballot Box page.

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