New lines, new ratings for House races in Indiana

Republican-crafted map solidifies 7-2 delegation split

Heavily Democratic parts of Indiana Rep. Victoria Spartz’s district were removed under the state’s new map, giving the congresswoman a safe seat that’s out of reach for Democrats, Gonzales writes.
 (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Heavily Democratic parts of Indiana Rep. Victoria Spartz’s district were removed under the state’s new map, giving the congresswoman a safe seat that’s out of reach for Democrats, Gonzales writes. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted October 12, 2021 at 5:30am

ANALYSIS — Not only did Indiana Republicans opt against squeezing one more seat out of their congressional delegation, they solidified the status quo and potentially left the state without a competitive House race for the next decade. 

Republicans need a net gain of just five seats in 2022 to retake the majority, but the fight for the House won’t be taking place in the Hoosier State next year. Unless there are a couple of political earthquakes, Indiana will likely send seven Republicans and two Democrats to Washington for the foreseeable future.

Indiana’s 1st (Frank J. Mrvan, D)

This northwest Indiana district would have been a target if Republicans had chosen to draw a takeover opportunity. Instead, Mrvan’s seat is virtually untouched. Joe Biden won the district under its current lines 54 percent to 45 percent and would have carried the redrawn seat 53 percent to 45 percent, according to calculations by Nick Roberts, a student at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. Considering Mrvan won by 16 points in 2020 and the seat has been held by a Democrat since the 1920s, it’s up to Republicans to prove this is a winnable race, even in a good GOP year. Initial rating: Solid Democratic.

Indiana’s 2nd (Jackie Walorski, R)

Leaving the 1st intact keeps Republican voters in the neighboring 2nd District. And that likely puts Walorski’s seat out of reach for Democrats under almost any conditions. The north central 2nd is anchored by South Bend and sometimes enters the conversation about competitive seats when an election cycle breaks against Republicans. But under the new map, Biden would have lost to President Donald Trump by 22 points in 2020. Initial rating: Solid Republican.

Indiana’s 3rd (Jim Banks, R)

The chairman of the Republican Study Committee shouldn’t have to worry about reelection. His northeast Indiana seat, which includes Fort Wayne and Huntington, would have voted for Trump over Biden by 30 points, 64 percent to 34 percent, under both the current and new lines. It doesn’t seem to matter whether he faces a businesswoman, professor or a man experiencing homelessness (Banks’ last three opponents), he always wins. Initial rating: Solid Republican.

Indiana’s 4th (Jim Baird, R)

Minimal changes were made to the partisan performance of the west central district, as Trump would also have won it by 30 points, 64 percent to 34 percent, in its present and future form. Baird was first elected in 2018 — winning the GOP nomination by 7 points in a crowded primary with less than 37 percent of the vote — and doesn’t have a reputation for being a strong campaigner. But he ran unopposed in the 2020 primary and doesn’t have to worry about the general election, considering the nature of the district. Initial rating: Solid Republican.

Indiana’s 5th (Victoria Spartz, R)

The 5th District changed most significantly by reassigning heavily Democratic portions of Marion County (Indianapolis) to the neighboring 7th District to the south. That’s a big help to the freshman Spartz, whose suburban seat was moving toward Democrats — under its current lines, Trump won it by 12 points in 2016 but by just 2 points four years later. Spartz still won the open seat (vacated by retiring Republican Susan W. Brooks) by 4 points, in what was thought to be one of the closest races in the country leading up to Election Day. Trump would have carried the redrawn 5th District by 16 points, essentially putting the seat out of reach for Democrats. In the 2018 Senate race, Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly narrowly won the current 5th while losing statewide; under the new lines, Republican Mike Braun, who unseated Donnelly, would have carried the district by 10 points. Initial rating: Solid Republican.

Indiana’s 6th (Greg Pence, R)

This eastern central district became more compact geographically but is still fundamentally Republican in its performance. Trump won the current district by 40 points in 2020 and would have carried the redrawn seat by 32 points. The seat will now include a more narrow swath of counties from south of Indianapolis to the Ohio border, shedding some of its southern counties to the 9th District and its northern counties to the 3rd. Pence, the brother of former Vice President Mike Pence, shouldn’t have any problems winning reelection. Initial rating: Solid Republican

Indiana’s 7th (André Carson, D)

By taking in more of Marion County from Spartz’s district, Carson’s seat becomes even more Democratic. The Indianapolis district goes from one that backed Biden by 28 points to one he would have carried by 32 points. Carson was first elected by just 11 points in a 2008 special election. His next races aren’t going to be nearly that close. Initial rating: Solid Democratic.

Indiana’s 8th (Larry Buschon, R)

Minimal changes, particularly from a political perspective, were made in this southwest Indiana seat. Trump would have won the redrawn district 66 percent to 33 percent, keeping it firmly in GOP hands. It’s hard to believe that Democrat Brad Ellsworth represented a version of this seat for two terms after his first election in 2006. But that may have had more to do with the deficiencies of the incumbent he unseated, Republican John Hostettler, than the competitive nature of the area. Initial rating: Solid Republican.

Indiana’s 9th (Trey Hollingsworth, R)

Since winning a crowded and competitive primary in 2016, the wealthy Tennessee native has solidified himself in this southeast Indiana seat that now stretches to the Ohio border. In 2018, a good cycle for Democrats, Hollingsworth won reelection by 13 points over a credible candidate. Two years later, he won by 26 points. Under the new map, Trump would have carried the 9th by 28 points. Initial rating: Solid Republican.

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst for CQ Roll Call.