Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, the incumbent Republican, won a second term over two challengers Tuesday night, NBC News projected shortly after polls closed.
Holcomb won an estimated 63% of the vote with 7% of precincts reporting as of 6:14 p.m. CST, early election results showed, with Democrat Woody Myers earning 24% and Libertarian Donald Rainwater earning 13%.
A record number of more than 1.7 million voters cast ballots ahead of Election Day as coronavirus health concerns prompted more use of mail-in ballots and early voting sites. The sheer volume of early votes — 43% more than four years ago — had election officials warning it could take more than one day to tally them all, possibly delaying determination of some winners.
However, those ballots did not appear likely to have an impact on the gubernatorial race, as the GOP was projected to continue its 16-year hold on the state’s top office, held before Holcomb by now-Vice President Mike Pence.
Holcomb faced plenty of criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic since he first issued a public health emergency in March. Through it all, he kept up his front-runner campaign for a second term with large advantages of name identification, fundraising and organization.
Democratic challenger Myers, a physician and former state health commissioner, argued Holcomb was too passive by not imposing penalties for those not wearing face masks in public and for lifting nearly all coronavirus restrictions on businesses and crowd sizes in September just as the state saw steep increases in coronavirus-related deaths, infections and hospitalizations.
Some conservatives around the state angry with Holcomb over his COVID-19 actions rallied around Libertarian Rainwater, who maintained the governor was infringing on individual rights.
“The increased number of absentee ballots could cause a delay in reporting results on Election Night,” said secretary of state Connie Lawson said Friday. “Please be patient and know that election administrators across the state are working tirelessly to calculate results.”
Holcomb said during a news conference Wednesday that all qualifying ballots are guaranteed to be counted, but noted that timelines for getting final tallies will likely vary across Indiana’s 92 counties.
“The sooner the better, but you can’t sacrifice the quality of the job. And you need to be thorough, and it needs to be accurate,” Holcomb said. “That gives Hoosiers the confidence that their voice was not just expressed, but that it was taken into account.”