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Ambitious Hoosiers Wait for Future Statewide Races | Farm Team

For the ambitious Hoosier pol, the Indiana political landscape offers opportunity, but only for those who are patient.

The delegation has endured terrific turnover: In the past five years, new members were elected to both Senate seats and all but one House seat in the congressional delegation. As a result, local operatives do not expect many open-seat races in the near future.

The greater opportunities may come if current members run statewide in 2016 or 2018 Senate races. Democrats are hopeful for an open seat if GOP Sen. Dan Coats retires in 2016, and Republicans will undoubtedly line up to challenge Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in 2018.

“There is a lot of pent-up ambition around the state and I think you’ll probably see that there is a long line of really impressive folks looking to run against Donnelly,” said Pete Seat, a spokesman for the Indiana Republican Party.

State Speaker Brian Bosma and Indianapolis Mayor Gregory A. Ballard top the list of local officials that GOP operatives would like to see run for higher office. Republicans also named several House members as possible Senate candidates, including Reps. Susan W. Brooks, Luke Messer and Todd Young.

Indiana Republican sources said they were confident Coats, 70, would seek re-election in three years. But Democrats are closely monitoring his Federal Election Commission reports, hoping any lackluster fundraising signals he might not run again.

But Hoosier Democrats have a shallow bench after the 2010 elections wiped out many of their top local lawmakers.

If there is an open Senate seat in 2016, Democrats will look at former Rep. Brad Ellsworth, the 2010 Democratic Senate nominee, and former Sen. Evan Bayh as possible contenders. Democrats also named South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Evansville Mayor Jonathan D. Weinzapfel as candidates with statewide potential.

Meanwhile, some local Democrats speculate Bayh might be interested in his former gig as governor. Bayh is traveling internationally and CQ Roll Call was unable to reach him for comment.

If Bayh runs in 2016, he would face Gov. Mike Pence, assuming the former House Republican seeks re-election.

In the near future, the 2nd District remains the state’s most competitive congressional race.

Last cycle, Iraq War veteran Brendan Mullen, a Democrat, narrowly lost to GOP Rep. Jackie Walorski. Some local Democrats say a rematch is on the horizon. But if Mullen passes, Indiana Democrats mentioned state Rep. Ryan Dvorak as a potential candidate.

To a lesser degree, Democrats are eyeing GOP Rep. Larry Bucshon in the 8th District. It’s a good district for Republicans, but Democrats hope Bucshon is ousted in a primary, making the race competitive. The congressman has been in the cross hairs of the fiscally conservative Club for Growth, and its spokesman, Barney Keller, called the group’s plans for his race “pretty serious.”

“If a fiscally conservative alternative was to run against Congressman Bucshon, we would strongly consider supporting that candidacy,”said Keller, declining to give names.

Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, a 15-term Democrat, is the only Hoosier House member who could retire, operatives said. But few Democrats expect him to step aside in the immediate future.

Lake County Democratic Central Committee Chairman Tom McDermott is considered to be in the best position to succeed him in the safely Democratic seat if that happens.

Farm Team is a state-by-state look at the up-and-coming politicos who may eventually run for Congress. The column runs on Thursdays.

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