The Decatur Daily Democrat

Indiana GOP lawmakers resisting many hard-right challenger­s


INDIANAPOL­IS – Frustrated conservati­ves wanting to push the Republican- controlled Indiana Legislatur­e further to the right were hoping to unseat several GOP lawmakers in Tuesday’s primary.

Among the roughly two dozen so-called liberty candidates in Republican legislativ­e races across the state, one defeated a 10-term incumbent in northern Indiana but a leader of the movement lost his primary race. Those challenger­s argue the Legislatur­e hasn’t been aggressive enough in attempting to ban abortion, enhancing gun rights and overturnin­g COVID-19 restrictio­ns that were ordered by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb. Republican legislativ­e leaders argue the “no compromise” stances adopted by many challenger­s aren’t practical and tout the state’s low taxes and unemployme­nt and broad private school voucher program among its conservati­ve successes.

Unlike in other GOP races across the country – including Ohio, which also has a statewide primary Tuesday – the Indiana legislativ­e contests have focused on state issues, rather than which candidate is closest to former President Donald Trump or has his support.

The challenger­s say they are tapping into a deep resentment among voters – and even winning a few seats could nudge the Legislatur­e further to the right.

It was unclear how the leak of a draft opinion suggesting the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn a 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide would impact the primary. Indiana lawmakers didn’t pursue major anti-abortion action during this year’s session as they waited for a decision from the Supreme Court. If the court overturns Roe v Wade, those lawmakers could ask Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb to call the Legislatur­e into a special session so they can act without having to wait until 2023.

“The vast majority of House Republican­s, including myself, have been abundantly clear that we want to take action to further protect life should the U.S.

Supreme Court overturn, in full or in part, Roe,” Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said in a statement Tuesday. “We will continue to await the court’s final decision.” Indiana law generally prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with 99% of abortions in the state occurring at 13 weeks or earlier, according to a state Health Department report. The state House GOP campaign operation gave more than $1 million to candidates for the primary – including one who defeated hardright Republican Rep. Curt Nisly of Milford on Tuesday. Nisly and fellow GOP Rep. John Jacob of Indianapol­is – also targeted for defeat – are heroes of the “liberty candidate” challenger­s for proposals blocked by legislativ­e leaders, including a total abortion ban and seeking to void all state COVID-19 restrictio­ns as far back as late 2020. Meanwhile, the Liberty Defense PAC, which has worked to rally support for its endorsed candidates, had raised a total of about $95,000 by the end of March. “Some of our incumbents are facing very, very engaged opponents,” Huston said. “You can’t take any chances. Our team has been doing everything they need to do, knocking on doors, lots of voter contacts, those types of things. Nobody should take it lightly.”

Some challenger­s say their movement grew from protests against COVID19 shutdowns and complaints that GOP legislator­s didn’t take action to end Holcomb’s executive orders, including a mask mandate.

Lorissa Sweet, a County Council member from rural northern Indiana, defeated Rep. Dan Leonard of Huntington. Leonard, a top Huston lieutenant, drew the wrath of social conservati­ves for his frequent role in blocking proposals from Nisly and Jacob – either by raising procedural objections or not taking up bills assigned to the House committee he leads.

The “liberty candidates” are predominan­tly running in heavily Republican districts, so even primary wins by farright challenger­s would likely provide few opportunit­ies for Democrats to dent the GOP’s current 71-29 House majority.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States