Former Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.), who was ousted in the Democratic sweep of 2006, announced Thursday that he hopes to challenge Sen. Evan Bayh (D) in 2010.
“I believe that perilous times are in our future if we don’t change course now,— the six-term former Congressman said in a video posted Thursday on his Web site, johnhostettler.com.
Bayh, a two-term Senator and former governor, is heavily favored for re-election and is sitting on more than $12 million in his campaign war chest — much of it assembled for a possible 2008 White House run that he abandoned early in that cycle.
Hostettler is a well-known and somewhat controversial figure in Indiana politics. A hard-core conservative, he never raised much money — to the aggravation of national GOP strategists — but relied on a strong network of grass-roots conservatives to push him across the finish line. His political luck ran out in 2006, however, when Democrat Brad Ellsworth, then a telegenic local sheriff, took 61 percent of the vote against him by emphasizing economic issues and rushing to assure voters that he was more in sync with them than with national Democratic leaders.
In 2004, Hostettler pleaded guilty to carrying a loaded semi-automatic pistol through an airport security checkpoint in the Louisville, Ky., airport. The judge suspended his 60-day sentence but barred him from carrying a gun anywhere in Kentucky for two years and said he could not purchase a gun anywhere except in Indiana or Washington, D.C.
In his 3 1/2-minute video, Hostettler sought to link Bayh several times with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), saying that since they’ve been in control of Congress, the nation’s unemployment rate has spiked, Wall Street firms have paid out billions of dollars in government bonuses, and the government’s deficit has grown to trillions of dollars.
“They’ve been in control of the government purse strings for the last three years and what do they have to show for it?— Hostettler asked.
In his video, Hostettler asks supporters to sign a petition to get him on the May Republican primary ballot.
Current GOP Senate candidates include state Sen. Marlin Stutzman, banker Don Bates Jr. and businessman Richard Behney, an organizer of the “tea party— protests in the state. Ex-state Rep. Dan Dumezich and Grant County Commissioner Mark Bardsley are also thinking of getting into the race. Then there is popcorn magnate Will Weaver, who is talking about running and has the ability to invest millions of dollars in the contest.
It is not clear whether any of these Republicans would defer to Hostettler.