ANGOLA — With one week left to file, Indiana Democratic officials feel the recent surge the party has shown in state races across the country will translate to more candidates for the Legislature and possibly gains in a Statehouse that has Republican super majorities.
Republican officials, on the other hand, think Democrats face a tall order and the GOP’s already strong organization will keep a lock on Indianapolis.
“We’ve definitely seen a surge in enthusiasm. We’ve seen a lot of first-time candidates and millennial candidates,” said John Zody, Indiana Democratic Party chairman. Numerous women are running, too, he said. “That’s what we’re seeing all over the state.”
“While Indiana Republicans enter 2018 from a position of strength, it’s clear that Democrats have a lot of catching up to do to even compete with our hold of offices at the federal, state and local level. Democrats may think this will be a favorable cycle for them, but Indiana is a Republican state and will continue to elect Republicans up and down the ballot,” said Kyle Hupfer, Indiana GOP chairman.
As of Thursday, Democrats had 80 candidates filed for Indiana House seats and 20 for the Senate. In the 2016 primary, Democrats fielded 75 House candidates and 22 Senate candidates.
So far this cycle, Republicans had 87 candidates for House seats and 27 for the Senate. In the 2016 primary there were 106 House candidates and 30 Senate candidates.
In each election all 100 House seats are up along with 25 in the Senate. Filing for the May 8 primary closes at noon Friday. State candidates file with at the Indiana Secretary of State office in Indianapolis.
In the House, Republicans hold a 70-30 advantage while in the Senate it is 41-9 for the GOP. Not since 2009-10 have the Democrats been in the majority in the House and one has to look to 1977-78 when the Democrats last held a majority, 28-22, in the Senate.
Zody credits training being done on the state level that has helped grow and groom candidates for this election cycle. In December, 120 women attended to a Democratic candidate training session in Indiana.
Also, national movements like the liberal Run For Something group that is encouraging millennial and the #MeToo movement motivating women is helping grow the number of candidates Democrats are seeing in Indiana.
“We have a surge in interest at all levels,” Zody said.
Republicans think their traditionally strong track record will help carry their candidates.
“As a whole, traditionally we have far more Republicans in Indiana running for office than Democrats. This long-term trend in Indiana shows that Hoosier Republicans have a history of putting their names forward in service to their communities — and it’s helped us build a deep bench of great candidates with strong records of public service,” said Holly Gillham, press secretary for the Republican Party of Indiana.
Some look at Virginia and its November legislative races as a sign of what’s to come elsewhere this year. Virginia’s House of Delegates went from a super majority of 66-34 in favor of Republicans to the GOP now only holding a 51-49 seat majority.
Pundits across the country are also predicting a Democratic wave in the mid-term elections, particularly with an unpopular President Donald Trump leading the GOP.
Zody is realistic when speaking about his party’s prospects in a state where Trump carried the vote by a landslide.
“President Trump won by quite a bit in Indiana and we have to keep that in perspective,” Zody said. “We’re not going to take that for granted, that it’s going to be a wave year.”
And even though they might be well in charge, Republicans aren’t taking the elections lightly, either.
“I would also add that we never take any vote for granted, which is why Hoosier Republicans are already hard at work to build the groundwork necessary to win in November,” Gillham said.
Come Friday, both parties will assess their efforts to encourage candidates to run and start preparing for the primary.