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Coats' Top Aide Enters Indiana Senate Contest

A top aide to Coats, right, is running for his Senate seat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated, 12:35 p.m. | Eric Holcomb, a congressional staffer and former Indiana GOP chairman, announced a bid Thursday to succeed retiring Sen. Dan Coats, becoming the first Republican to enter what could be a crowded primary field .  

"This campaign will be about what we're for, not simply what we're against," Holcomb said at a campaign announcement in Indianapolis. "This campaign in short will be about Indiana's voice."  

Holcomb, a Naval veteran, is well-connected in Indiana. He was a close adviser to former Gov. Mitch Daniels before being elected chairman of the state Republican Party in 2011. He was serving as chief of staff but submitted his resignation Wednesday after being on leave  from the office.  

He's the first to launch his campaign but won't be the last. Reps. Jackie Walorski , Marlin Stutzman , Todd Young , Todd Rokita and Susan W. Brooks  are all seriously considering the race. The GOP starts the race with an advantage, Mitt Romney carried Indiana by 10 points in 2012.  

Republicans feel the seat should go their way. But Democrats, who point to President Barack Obama's win here in 2008 and Joe Donnelly's Senate victory in 2012, could compete if they can recruit a strong candidate.  

Former Rep. Baron Hill announced Wednesday he is considering the race . Democrats could also look to former Sen. Evan Bayh, who retired in 2010, and former Rep. Brad Ellsworth, who lost to Coats that same year, could also look to run.  

While several Republicans could jump in, the potential for a wide field could keep some House members from going for it. In an email to supporters Thursday, Brooks said she is taking time to contemplate getting into the race, acknowledging how crowded it could get.  

"Indiana Republicans are fortunate to have probably the deepest bench of capable leaders of any state in the country," Brooks said. "That fact is not lost on me as I consider a candidacy that could put me up against some of my friends and colleagues who are also running or considering it. But a vigorous, well run primary, based on good ideas and focused on a constructive debate about the future of America, can be very beneficial to our party and our state."  

Young also released a statement Thursday outlining his thought process.  

"Since Sen. Coats made his retirement announcement, I've received countless emails, voicemails, and text messages from Hoosiers like you encouraging me to run for his Senate seat," Young said in a Facebook post . "Your support has been overwhelming, and I can't thank you enough for the kind words over the past few days. Running for the U.S. Senate is a big decision, but it is something that Jenny and I are prayerfully considering and working through as a family." Stutzman, who lost to Coats in the 2010 open-seat Senate primary, told reporters on Tuesday that he plans "to make a decision in the upcoming month."  

After Coats announced his retirement, the Indiana Senate race rating was moved from Safe Republican to the more competitive Favored Republican by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.  

   

Ed. note: This post was updated to note Holcomb has resigned his post. Related: Coats Retirement Sparks Hoosier State Free-for-All Coats Not Seeking Re-Election in Indiana The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.