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Hoosier State Republicans Eyeing Pence’s Seat

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Indiana Rep. Mike Pence is likely to choose a gubernatorial bid over running for re-election in his 6th district seat. The Republican’s move would clear the way for several candidates considering House runs.

Yet each of those candidates has to consider what will happen to the current 6th district — and surrounding districts  — through redistricting. Messer seems more likely to run again in the 5th district. Speculation has been rampant that Burton, who is 72 and has faced tough primary challenges in the past two election cycles, might decide to retire, but his office told Roll Call on Tuesday that he plans to run for re-election. Indiana Republicans believe that Burton’s brother, state Rep. Woody Burton, will try to shape the district in his favor. 

Republican state legislators will have a lot of factors to consider when they draw the Congressional lines. 

Ed Feigenbaum, editor of the nonpartisan newsletter Indiana Legislative Insight, said their top priority will probably be to further marginalize conservative Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, who eked out a win in his competitive northern Indiana district in 2010. The new lines could make Donnelly’s district more Republican leaning, which would give him more incentive to run statewide.

For Donnelly, that more than likely would mean a gubernatorial bid. And if he won the Democratic primary, he could potentially find himself in a general election race against Pence. Democrats also are looking for a candidate to challenge Sen. Dick Lugar (R).

The next step, Feigenbaum said, would be to protect new Republican Members such as Rep. Todd Young, an attorney who defeated Democratic Rep. Baron Hill in 2010. Indiana Republicans flipped two seats that Democrats had held in November.

Young might pick up some of the Republican-leaning areas Pence represents now. His current district is directly south of Pence’s.

Because of that shift, Democrats believe Pence’s district may be more friendly to a Democrat after redistricting. The district chose Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for president with just 52 percent of the vote in 2008 and was represented by a Democrat before McIntosh was elected in 1994. Democratic state Sen. Tim Lanane, who represents Madison County, said people have asked him to look at the race. 

“It would be something I would take a careful look at and then make hopefully a fairly quick decision on,” he told Roll Call.

Lanane was first appointed to the state Senate in 1997 and now serves as the top Democrat on the Senate’s Elections Committee, which oversees redistricting. He said he hopes the Republican majority will make good on its promise to allow Democrats to give “meaningful input” into the redistricting process.

The state Legislature must finish Congressional redistricting by April 29 or it will go to an independent commission, and Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) must make his decision on the new maps in May. Until then, all bets are off in Indiana’s delegation.

It is unclear how heavily national Democrats will contest the Hoosier State in 2012. Indiana narrowly backed President Barack Obama in 2008 after decades of choosing the Republican presidential nominee. But the 2010 elections suggest the state is trending Republican.

Evan Bayh’s decision to retire from the Senate last year was bad news for Democrats, and Lugar’s seat is likely safe for the GOP.

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