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GOPers Eye Indiana Seat; Redistricting Looms

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Tom Williams/Roll Call
Rep. Mike Pence, who spoke Monday at the Americans for Prosperity rally, will set off a race for his seat if he seeks higher office in 2012.

As Indiana Rep. Mike Pence considers running for governor or even president in 2012, Hoosiers are lining up for a shot at his seat in the House, even before the state government decides the boundaries of the district.

In January, the Republican lawmaker briefly considered a bid against Sen. Evan Bayh (D), but Pence ultimately declined to run, even after Bayh decided to retire. After Republicans won back control of the House, Pence announced he would not seek re-election as Republican Conference chairman in the next Congress but would make a decision about his political future early next year. Because of term limits, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) can’t run for re-election in 2012, and he is also eyeing a White House bid.

With the race for governor and Sen. Dick Lugar (R) up for re-election in 2012, Indiana politicians will have their choice of offices to run for. Much of who will run in each race depends on which candidates file for statewide races, what other officeholders decide to do and how the Congressional district lines are redrawn.

Former Rep. David McIntosh, Wayne County Sheriff Matt Strittmatter, financial adviser Don Bates Jr. and former state Rep. Luke Messer have all been mentioned as potential Republican candidates in Pence’s conservative 6th district, located in east-central Indiana and centered on Muncie.

The fact that Pence probably won’t run for re-election may affect the way the lines are drawn, said Jerry Alexander, an Indiana-based political consultant who has worked as Pence’s political director.

“If you’re a state legislator and you know that there’s a guy that’s probably not going to run ... and you’re redrawing lines, you really don’t care a whole lot about offending that Member,” Alexander said.

Redistricting in Indiana has been such a partisan affair in the past that Secretary of State Todd Rokita — an incoming Member of Congress — launched a campaign this year called Rethinking Redistricting, urging state legislators to adopt a plan that would limit Congressional district lines from chopping up counties and state legislative districts.

Since that bill hasn’t been signed into law, however, the process would go through both legislative bodies the way a bill normally would after the census data is released in early February. Unlike 2001, when Democrats controlled both chambers, Republicans will control both chambers in 2011. If legislators can’t agree on maps by late March, a five-member commission consisting of the Speaker, the president of the Senate, the chairmen of the redistricting committees in both chambers and a gubernatorial appointee can put together an interim redistricting plan, according to Rokita’s Rethinking Redistricting website.

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