The Indiana Democratic Party’s decision to challenge Rep. Todd Young’s petitions to be on the Senate primary ballot amounted to voter deprivation, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said Thursday.
The party has formally challenged Young, the third-term Republican, accusing him of failing to file the requisite number of signatures to appear on the Indiana ballot. If successful, the move could eliminate Young from the primary ballot and elevate Rep. Marlin Sutzman, who Indiana Democrats view as easier for former Democratic Rep. Baron Hill to beat in November. "The only thing Democrats know is they don't want to run against any of our candidates and they saw an opportunity to throw up a press release about this. They’re going to fail, lose and lose this seat," said Ward Baker, the NRSC's executive director, at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington.
Baker joined NRSC chairman, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who added, "I would think the Democratic Party of Indiana needs to think long and hard before they go down this path of trying to deprive the voters of Indiana of legitimate choice."
But it was not just the Democrats who were questioning Young's signatures.
On Wednesday, the Sutzman campaign piled on. Josh Kelley, his campaign manager, said in a statement , “Young’s inability to gather sufficient signatures is a real concern to countless Republicans our team has spoken with.”
Baker shrugged off Sutzman’s campaign’s critique of Young as mere primary politics, where one candidate stood to gain by weakening another.
"This committee is not endorsing anyone in Indiana, but we are offended that the Democratic Party of Indiana, the DSCC," referring to an opposing organization, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, "and the Washington establishment are working so hard against a veteran, because they don’t want to run against him," Baker said. “At the end of the day, this is the Democrats trying to trick the voters of Indiana."
The Indiana Democrats contend Young received only 498 signatures in the state's 1st District, two fewer than the 500 required by state law, while a separate report by the Indiana Election Commission showed he has 501. The challenge will be considered by the commission next Friday, Feb. 19. The primary is May 5.
Wicker said during his first campaign for Senate in a 2008 special election, he thought he had an opportunity of his own to try to eliminate his Democratic opponent at the time, Ronnie Musgrove, from the ballot. On the final day to submit signatures, Wicker said Musgrove did not properly file and that he considered taking the issue to court.
“We could have made a big deal. I said — and my campaign said — I don’t want to be a senator that badly that I would go to court and try to keep someone off the ballot,” he said.
Simone Pathé contributed to this report. Related: Former Coats Staffer Withdraws From Indiana Senate Race Democrats Look to Expand Map in Indiana — Just in Case Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016 Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.