Republicans Look to Secure Dominance on Indiana Primary Day - NBC Chicago
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Republicans Look to Secure Dominance on Indiana Primary Day

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Under the Tucson Sun
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    The election Tuesday in Indiana will mark an end to a nasty U.S. Senate primary, where three Republicans vie for a chance to unseat what many consider a vulnerable Democratic incumbent in U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly this fall.

    Democrats, meanwhile, have shown reinvigorated signs of life and hope that energy will translate into a liberal "blue wave" in November that will help them retake two congressional districts where they've lost control in recent years.

    Republicans in the conservative state are trying to continue their dominance in the Legislature and in congressional races, including one in which Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, is the front runner among five Republicans for an open seat.

    With an increase in new candidates in legislative races, Democrats also aim at cutting into large GOP majorities that left them mostly powerless over the past six years and hope for a backlash against President Donald Trump.

    Here's a look at some key primary races that will set the stage for November when voters will pick one of Indiana's two U.S. senators, all nine U.S. House members, 25 seats in the state Senate and all 100 state House seats.

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    U.S. SENATE

    Republican U.S. Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, and former state Rep. Mike Braun are competing to replace Donnelly.

    With few major policy differences, the GOP primary candidates have run bitter campaigns by arguing who's the best Trump supporter and bickering among each other. Trump won the state by 19 points in the 2016.

    Rokita, a three-term U.S. representative, dons a red "Make America Great Again" hat in TV ads and carries a cardboard Trump cutout to rallies. He described Messer as a "Never Trumper" and Braun as a lifelong Democrat. Braun has a history of voting in Democratic primaries.

    Messer, a member of House leadership, recently nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize for his handling of North Korea. Meanwhile, Braun, who is also a businessman, argues his experience is the closest to Trump because he's an outsider.

    Some Republicans worry that the nasty race that has included name calling puts the party's chance of unseating Donnelly at risk.

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    U.S. HOUSE

    Muncie businessman Jonathan Lamb is challenging the odds-on favorite GOP candidate Greg Pence in the 6th Congressional District.

    Lamb has criticized his opponent for relying on the Pence name, which is well-known in the district that the vice president held for a dozen years before becoming Indiana governor. Greg Pence also is drawing national attention and money that come with that name.

    He has defended the family name and his qualifications to serve the 6th District, where he's lived for over six decades.

    Two members of Mike Pence's gubernatorial administration — Steve Braun and Diego Morales — are running for the 4th District.

    Democrats, on the other hand, are eyeing two districts that used to elect conservative Democrats before they were redistricted to favor the GOP.

    They consider both GOP incumbents — Jackie Walorski in the 2nd District and Trey Hollingsworth in the 9th District — vulnerable, saying they have been absent from the districts and are clueless about what their constituents need.

    Leading candidates in the spirited Democratic campaigns are former health care executive Mel Hall, businessman Yatish Joshi and attorney Pat Hackett in the 2nd District, and civil rights lawyer Dan Canon and former congressional staffer Liz Watson in the 9th District.

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    LEGISLATURE

    Democrats have nearly two-thirds more candidates seeking legislative nominations this year than they did in the last midterm election four years ago. They hope the increase is a sign that they could cut into Republican supermajorities in the state House and Senate that have left them largely powerless over the past six years.

    Republican voters, meanwhile, will decide numerous contested races, with candidates including the wife and son of former GOP congressmen among those seeking legislative nominations.

    Half of the seats in the 50-member Indiana Senate and all 100 seats in the Indiana House are up this year.

    Several long-time legislators decided not to seek new terms this year, leading to packed primary fields for some of the eight open House seats now held by Republicans and five House seats being given up by Democratic incumbents.

    Democrats need to add four House seats to break the current 70-30 Republican supermajority, while the GOP's 41-9 Senate margin means Democrats must pick up at least eight seats.

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    CYBERSECURITY

    Election officials say Indiana remains safe from cybersecurity attacks because of the precautions that the state is taking to protect its election systems.

    Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson wrote in a recent op-ed to ensure voters that the agency tests all election equipment used in the state prior to elections and works with the Department of Homeland Security to better identify cyber threats.

    Lawson, who is also president of the association of top state election officials, said that cybersecurity is one of the most critical issues facing government officials with regards to the foreign interference with the U.S. 2016 election. According to DHS, 21 states were targeted by Russia ahead of that election. Indiana was not one of them.

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    TURNOUT

    Voter turnout in Indiana was only 13 percent in last midterm primary election four years ago with about 620,000 out of the 4.6 million registered voters casting ballots. This year, state election division data show there are about 4.4 million registered voters.

    Polls across the state are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., regardless of whether voting is in the eastern or central time zone.

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