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Signs Point to Ellsworth as IN-Sen Candidate

Barring some miracle of Tamyra D’Ippolito qualifying for the primary ballot in the Indiana Senate race, a miracle that even she doubts as she’s only collected 77% of the required signatures with one day to go and will have no support from the state party, it’s likely that Indiana Democrats will be able, by virtue of having no primary candidates on the ballot, to select their own candidate for November, avoiding the primary entirely. So who will that candidate be?

The name that keeps coming up in various conversations is Rep. Brad Ellsworth. Ellsworth, a former sheriff, beat Rep. John Hostettler, who is an announced candidate on the Republican side for the Senate seat, in 2006. That seat is perenially seen as a bellwether swing seat in Indiana (meaning that opening it up would make it an instant Republican target. He’s a fairly right-leaning candidate for a Democrat, but so was Bayh.

Among the other names being kicked around are Rep. Baron Hill, who would be lucky to win his own seat in Congress, let alone a Senate seat; and Evansville mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel. Who is that? He’s a 44 year-old two-term mayor of a city in that swing district of IN-08 (he took 85% of the vote as Mayor in 2007), and he previously served in the Indiana House. He’s considered the most popular mayor in Indiana, and what’s more, he has nothing to do with Washington, which is probably important in this anti-incumbent climate.

Put me down for Weinzapfel, though I’m not in a back room.

UPDATE: Ellsworth has already responded: “I appreciate the support of those Hoosiers who have already encouraged me to run for Sen. Bayh’s seat. The next step will be taking a few days to talk to my wife and to folks in Indiana about where I can best serve our state.”

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David Dayen

David Dayen