State Sen. Victoria Spartz won a crowded 15-person Republican primary in Indiana’s 5th District on Tuesday for the seat being vacated by retiring GOP Rep. Susan W. Brooks.
She will next face Democratic former state Rep. Christina Hale in a district anchored in the Indianapolis suburbs that Democrats have on their target list this year.
Meanwhile, in the much bluer 1st District that includes Gary and suburbs of Chicago, Democrat Frank Mrvan beat 13 others in the primary to replace longtime Democratic Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, who is retiring after 18 terms. Mark Levyra beat five other Republicans for the GOP nomination.
Both seats are considered unlikely to change hands, but Democrats are more hopeful about the 5th District, with its suburban profile, than Republicans are about the 1st.
Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 5th District race Likely Republican, and the 1st District Solid Democratic.
With 51 percent of precincts reporting, Spartz was leading with 39 percent of the vote when The Associated Press called the race shortly after 9 p.m. Political newcomer Beth Henderson was in second place with 19 percent.
Spartz, a businesswoman and state senator who was born in Ukraine, won in part because of strong support from the anti-tax Club for Growth, which poured more than $400,000 into the race, running ads attacking Henderson and another contender, former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi.
Spartz also put more than $750,000 of her own money into the race, which accounted for much of her $842,000 fundraising through May 13.
In a not-so-subtle dig at Spartz’s heritage, Henderson emphasized in two TV ads, “I was born in the USA.” But Spartz used her background as a cornerstone of her campaign, arguing that growing up in the Ukraine spurred her to want to fight socialism.
On the Democratic side, Hale was leading four opponents with 39 percent of the vote when the AP called the race.
A former state representative and onetime executive at Kiwanis International, Hale quickly became a front-runner in the Democratic primary, raising $1.05 million, more than any other Republican in the crowded field. National Democrats are encouraged by her strong-fundraising and believe she’s a strong enough candidate to possibly flip the GOP seat.
Hale released a statement promising not to “waste time on partisan politics” if elected.
“I have a proven record of working across the aisle to solve problems and deliver results,” she said. “In Congress, I’ll work with anyone and everyone to make health care more affordable, create good-paying jobs right here in Indiana, and support our small businesses as they fight to recover.”
The 5th District backed Trump by 12 points in 2016, but Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly narrowly carried the seat two years later, while losing statewide.
In the 1st District, Mrvan Mrvan had 34 percent of the vote with 69 percent of precincts reported when the AP called the race. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., who was endorsed by former Sen. Joe Donnelly, was in second place with 29 percent.