Politics

GOP's Young Defeats Bayh for Indiana Senate Seat

Comeback bid by Democratic former senator is foiled

Indiana Rep. Todd Young get a promotion to the Senate after defeating Democratic former Sen. Evan Bayh. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republicans will win a key race in their quest to keep control of the Senate, with GOP Rep. Todd Young besting Democratic former Sen. Evan Bayh, The Associated Press projects.

Democrats had little room for error in their quest to re-take control of the Senate. That made Bayh’s race a major battleground. The contest was tight all the way, with The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call listing it as a Tossup until voters went to the polls on Tuesday.

Young was leading Bayh 55.5 percent to 38.9 percent with 45.9 percent of precincts reporting.

[Election Results 2016]

The hard-fought race saw attacks from both sides. One Democratic ad accused Young of siding with companies that ship American jobs overseas. And an ad from the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action warned that Bayh would help Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton fill another seat on the Supreme Court.

In 2010, Republican Dan Coats won the seat with 54.6 percent of the vote, beating out Brad Ellsworth. This year’s race was thrown open to newcomers when Coats, who has served more than 15 years in the Senate over three decades, announced his retirement in March.

“This was not an easy decision,” Coats said. “While I believe I am well-positioned to run a successful campaign for another six-year term, I have concluded that the time has come to pass this demanding job to the next generation of leaders.”

Young is a soft-spoken mainstream Republican with no sharp edges. He isn’t one to deliver defiant speeches or to champion lost causes. Young portrayed himself during the campaign as a Marine whose sense of duty had prompted him to run for the House in 2010.

He cited his military experience as one of his main qualifications to be a senator.“We have to stay engaged in the world. That’s something I learned at the Naval Academy; it's something I learned in the U.S. Marine Corps,” he said during a debate. “Only strong nations can consistently form alliances, deter aggression, and when necessary, win wars, though we have to be very careful about where and when we engage.”

The normally risk-averse Young was willing to venture into politically perilous territory on one issue during the 2016 campaign, saying he was open to the idea of increasing the eligibility age for Social Security retirement benefits for today’s younger workers.

Bayh and Coats were already the answers to one another’s Wikipedia trivia questions about who succeeded whom in the Senate. Bayh’s win marks the third time one of them will follow the other as a senator.

Although the two Hoosiers have repeatedly exchanged the seat, they never ran against each other. Retirement allowed each a chance to avoid the long hoped-for Indiana heavyweight contest. Coats’s surprise decision not to run in 1998 delivered an easy victory to Bayh, a popular two-term governor. Bayh blamed partisanship and gridlock for his decision not to seek a third term in 2010, but it coincided with a bad year for Democrats. Coats won easily.

When Bayh joined the Senate in 1999, at 43, he was considered a young star, having delivered the keynote address at the 1996 Democratic National Convention. He was considered, but not chosen, as a running mate for three Democratic presidential candidates: Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008.

Promoted as a potential presidential candidate in his own right, Bayh briefly considered a 2004 race but concluded his twin sons, born in November 1995, were too young to allow him to leave for a grueling campaign. He made a half-hearted stab at the Democratic nomination in 2008, only to pull back when he fared poorly in early polls.

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