Ellsworth Tops List of Replacements for Bayh

Posted February 16, 2010 at 3:33pm

In the immediate aftermath of Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D-Ind.) surprise retirement announcement, several Democrats have expressed interest in running in Bayh’s stead, and others have taken themselves out of the Senate race.

One day after Bayh dropped his bombshell, Rep. Brad Ellsworth is at or near the top of a roster of Indiana Democrats weighing whether to ask a selection committee of 32 Democratic officials to be considered for the Senate vacancy caused by Bayh’s eleventh-hour decision.

According to the Evansville Courier and Press, Ellsworth said Tuesday morning that he thought he would make a decision “within a week, maybe sooner than that.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee circulated that story to reporters because it stands to benefit from Ellsworth not seeking re-election in the conservative southwestern 8th district.

Rep. Baron Hill (D) also is frequently mentioned as a potential Senate candidate, though not for anything the Congressman has said: He is on a military trip overseas and unavailable for comment. Hill has run for the Senate before — in 1990, when he lost a close race to then-Sen. Dan Coats (R), who is now running to reclaim his former seat.

Hill, who represents the southeastern 9th district, faces stronger Republican opposition than Ellsworth, and the GOP would have the early edge to win his seat if he became the Democratic Senate nominee.

Ellsworth and Hill already have filed for re-election, and their names will appear on the May 4 primary ballot unless they withdraw by Monday. There doesn’t appear to be anything in Indiana law that precludes them from running for re-election in the primary and being considered for the Senate vacancy.

Ellsworth and Hill have been mentioned prominently as potential Senate candidates because they have large campaign treasuries. Hill had $729,000 in the bank as the year began and Ellsworth had $518,000.

State Sen. Vi Simpson also has expressed interest in being considered for the Democratic nomination. She’s been a state legislator since 1984 and the state Senate Minority Leader since 2008.

Joseph Hogsett, a former Indiana secretary of State and a close political ally of Bayh, hasn’t ruled out a Senate bid but is under serious consideration to be tapped as the new U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.

Among the Democrats who have ruled out a Senate run are Rep. Joe Donnelly, Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel and former Gov. Joe Kernan.

The selection committee will meet after it is confirmed that no Democrat met the state’s two-tier filing deadline for Senate candidates — submitting 500 signatures of registered voters in each of Indiana’s nine Congressional districts by noon Tuesday, and then submitting those signatures along with a declaration of candidacy with state election officials by Friday. Restaurant owner Tamyra d’Ippolito (D), who was challenging Bayh in the primary, fell overwhelmingly short of meeting the signature requirements despite her statements to the contrary earlier Tuesday.

The committee must select a nominee by June 30, though it will likely act much sooner than that because Coats, Hostettler and several other Republicans already are campaigning for the seat.