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5 questions Indiana’s primaries will answer

Spartz battles for another term as self-funding candidates vie for open seats

Indiana Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz had said she would not seek reelection, then got back into the race after others had begun running.
Indiana Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz had said she would not seek reelection, then got back into the race after others had begun running. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Open congressional seats don’t happen all that often so when one state has three, they are bound to attract a crowd. In Indiana, vacancies in the solidly red 3rd, 6th and 8th Districts have drawn multiple Republican contenders in Tuesday’s primaries, including two former House members and many self-funders.

But one of the most intense battles is playing out in the 5th District, where Rep. Victoria Spartz announced in February that she was running for reelection after all — reversing her 2023 decision to retire from the House. 

By then, at least seven other Republicans already had filed to run for the seat, including Chuck Goodrich, a businessman and state legislator who has largely bankrolled his campaign with $4.6 million from his own pocket.

Going into the campaign’s final weeks being significantly outspent, Spartz put $700,000 of her own money into her reelection effort since April 25. 

Indiana also has a GOP primary for the open governor’s office, which features Sen. Mike Braun and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, among others. Rep. Jim Banks doesn’t face a Republican primary opponent in his run for Braun’s Senate seat, though two Democrats are competing to run against him in November.

Here’s a look at some of the key House contests, all of which are rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.

Can Stutzman make a comeback?

Marlin Stutzman, who represented the 3rd District for three terms before giving up the seat for an unsuccessful Senate run, is trying for a comeback after Banks made his Senate run. But seven other Republicans are running in the district, which is centered on Fort Wayne in the northeastern part of the state. 

They include Tim Smith, who retired from a major medical malpractice insurance firm to lead a Christian nonprofit organization, former Allen County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Davis and state Sen. Andy Zay. 

Smith loaned his campaign $1.1 million and had $324,000 on hand as of April 17. Stutzman loaned his campaign $500,000, but had just $88,000 left. Davis loaned her campaign $257,000 but raised almost three times that from donors and had $250,000 left. Zay did not report any candidate loans; he had $147,000 on hand. 

Outside groups have spent nearly $4.5 million in the district, with nearly $2.1 million going to oppose Stutzman. But he’s benefitted from $785,000 spent to support him by groups including the House Freedom Fund, the PAC of the House Freedom Caucus. The Winning for Women Action Fund is backing Davis and has spent $703,000 to support her and $392,000 against Stutzman. The anti-tax, small-government Club for Growth Action has spent $758,000 so far, split about evenly against Davis and Smith.

Is Spartz done?

The candidates challenging Spartz include Goodrich, a state legislator and construction company CEO; former House staffer Max Engling; speech language pathologist and businessman Raju Chinthala; and lawyer Mark Hurt. Goodrich’s $4.6 million has helped fund ads criticizing Spartz for failing to take a tough stance on crime and accusing her of bullying her staff. He had $1.3 million on hand, or 10 times Spartz’s $134,000, on April 17, the closing date of the latest full report filed with the Federal Election Commission. 

Spartz, who has the backing of SBA Pro-Life America and the National Rifle Association, has pushed back against Goodrich’s attacks and run ads criticizing him for being soft on China. Her fundraising got off to a slow start, which isn’t surprising given that her campaign was sidelined for about a year. But disclosures filed since the last full report showed she loaned her campaign an additional $700,000. 

Engling did not loan his campaign money but he did get a financial boost from a bevy of leadership PACs of Republican members such as Reps. Don Bacon of Nebraska and Jake Ellzey of Texas, as well as donations from former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Richard Hudson of North Carolina. Engling also has the backing of the Republican Main Street Partnership PAC. Engling, who was director of member services under McCarthy, had about $29,000 on hand on April 17.

Will millions work this time for Shreve? 

Rep. Greg Pence’s retirement announcement sparked a flurry of interest in the 6th District seat, with seven Republicans qualifying for the ballot. But the bipartisan Indiana Election Commission determined trucking company executive Sid Mahant — who had loaned his campaign $2 million — did not meet the legal requirements to run.

The remaining GOP field consists of Jefferson Shreve, who founded a self-storage company; state Rep. Mike Speedy; state Sen. Jeff Raatz; former state Rep. John Jacob; church leader and RV industry consultant Jamison Carrier; Bill Frazier; and Darin Childress. 

Shreve has invested $5.6 million into his campaign so far, less than a year after he spent more than $13 million of his own money on an unsuccessful bid to become mayor of Indianapolis. Almost all of the funding for his congressional campaign has come from his own pocket.

His  opponents have also opened their wallets. Speedy has loaned his campaign $1.5 million and Carrier has kicked in $750,000.

Of the $280,000 spent so far by outside groups, $217,000 of it, from Americans for Prosperity Action — a super PAC that backs conservative candidates — has gone to support Speedy. 

Can pro-Israel spending tilt 8th District?

Eight Republicans are vying to succeed retiring Rep. Larry Bucshon in the 8th District. The field includes former Rep. John Hostettler, who lost reelection in 2006; state Sen. Mark Messmer; cancer surgeon Richard Moss; and Dominick Kavanaugh, who worked as a White House intern when Donald Trump was president.

Messmer’s FEC report through April 17 showed he’d raised $763,000 for the cycle, all from contributors. But Kavanaugh, who filed a financial disclosure report showing a trust fund of “undetermined” value, has loaned his campaign $500,000. And Moss, who has the backing of House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, self-funded $545,000, then added another $150,000 since the April 17 filing.

Outside groups have spent $5.6 million so far in the race, including $2.8 million against Hostettler. United Democracy Project, a super PAC affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is paying for an anti-Hostettler ad, calling him “one of the most anti-Israel politicians in America.” RJC Victory Fund, which is aligned with the Republican Jewish Coalition, has spent $955,000 supporting Messner, who also benefited from another $1.1 million spent by other groups.

Who will take on Mrvan?

In the 1st District race, which Inside Elections rates as Likely Democratic, three Republicans are vying for the chance to unseat Democratic Rep. Frank J. Mrvan, who is unopposed in the primary. Among the GOP field, Lake County Councilman Randy Niemeyer was the only candidate who had money in his campaign fund — $296,000 — as of April 17. Mrvan had $1.2 million.

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