Late polls showed Sen. Dick Lugar (above) trailing state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.
Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold, Burton’s endorsed candidate and a former professional figure skater, is also running. But he hasn’t raised enough money to boost his name identification outside his base in Grant County on the northern end of the district.
This race marks former Marion County Coroner John McGoff’s third consecutive campaign for this seat. It’s pretty unlikely, but he could win in a race with extremely low turnout because he’s well-known from previous efforts.
Finally, there’s attorney Jack Lugar, who raised a pitiful $6,000. He’s highly unlikely to win, but he’ll affect the race because of his famous last name. The Senator’s camp says the two are not related.
The race will be played out mostly in Hamilton County, which includes the largest chunk of GOP voters in the district. It’s a county north of Indianapolis that includes the wealthy suburb of Carmel.
The burgeoning GOP field means the winner could pick up the nomination with less than 30 percent of the vote. That’s how Burton won last cycle.
Luke Messer, the former Indiana Republican Party executive director, is the frontrunner for this open seat. But he’s narrowly followed by Travis Hankins, who Republicans cautioned could stage an upset in a low-turnout race.
Both Republicans are familiar faces to some of redrawn 6th district, which comprises Indiana’s southeastern corner to the Ohio River border.
In the neighboring 5th district, Messer narrowly lost to Burton last cycle by about 2,500 votes. On that same 2010 primary day in the 9th district, Hankins lost the GOP nomination to now-Rep. Todd Young by an even slimmer margin of about 1,200 votes.
When Republicans redrew the Congressional map last year, they moved the respective bases of both candidates into the 6th district.
Messer has run a more traditional, better-funded operation. He managed to mount a television campaign in the pricey Cincinnati broadcast market, where voters aren’t familiar with him from his previous run or time in the state House. And just a couple of days ago, Messer secured Gov. Mitch Daniels’ endorsement.
The elusive Hankins shuns many interviews, but his grass-roots success surprised Republicans in 2010. One local GOP consultant compared Hankins to “Keyser Söze,” the mythical Kevin Spacey character in “The Usual Suspects” movie.
“He’s the Keyser Söze of southern Indiana,” the GOP consultant said. “You hear about him, but you don’t actually see him. He keeps popping up in the polls, but there’s no TV buy.”
This is a tough district to buy air time in because it is contains four media markets: Louisville, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Dayton. That works to Messer’s advantage, but anything can happen in a low-profile House race like this.
Local Republicans expect a low turnout of 60,000 to 80,000 voters. The field is crowded with other names, but Republicans say either Messer or Hankins will win the nod. That means the nominee could win with less than 40 percent of the vote.
Freshman Rep. Larry Bucshon (R) faces a primary challenge from his 2010 opponent, tea party activist Kristi Risk.