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Tamyra D’Ippolito: “Politics in Indiana is the old boy’s school.”

Tamyra d'Ippolito

Tamyra d'Ippolito

I just spoke with Tamyra D’Ippolito, the candidate who was already running in the US Senate primary as a Democrat in Indiana before Evan Bayh ended his re-election bid today. D’Ippolito’s potential presence on the primary ballot complicates the ability for Indiana Democrats to handpick a nominee. If nobody qualifies for the primary, Indiana Dems can choose the candidate. But if D’Ippolito qualifies, then she would be the only candidate on that primary ballot, and Brad Ellsworth or Baron Hill or whoever would have to run a write-in campaign to defeat her in that primary in May.

So how’s D’Ippolito doing? She’s collected 3,500 of the 4,500 signatures, 500 in each Congressional district in Indiana, which are needed by noon tomorrow in order to qualify. D’Ippolito said that she’s particularly short in IN-08, in the Terre Haute/Evansville area of the district. Her campaign manager has contacted all of the heads of the county Democratic parties asking them if they would help her get on the ballot.

But she’s not getting the sense that they want to be helpful in that effort. “Politics in Indiana is the old boy’s school. They’re getting ready to put one of their own in,” D’Ippolito, a cafe owner in Bloomington who gained experience in politics running a primary campaign for Gretchen Clearwater in 2006. “My gut feeling tells me they’re meeting in a room, I don’t know if they’re smoking cigars,” D’Ippolito said, basically working under the assumption that Bayh’s announcement was timed so the state party could pick the nominee by themselves. “The timing of this is amazing.”

D’Ippolito told me she is the first woman to ever run for the US Senate in Indiana. Her impression from working on prior campaigns and from this one is that Indiana political culture is a “tight old boys school, it borders on sexism.” In a state where the population is 52% women, D’Ippolito says “in the future, we women of Indiana are not going to tolerate” the chummy, insider culture.

She’s heard the rumors of Brad Ellsworth or Baron Hill, both US Congressmen, jumping into the race. D’Ippolito ran the campaign of Gretchen Clearwater against Baron Hill in a primary in 2006, which Hill won.

Far from being chagrined by the lack of help from the state party, D’Ippolito was enthused by the attention being paid to the race. “Today is a very exciting day in Indiana politics,” she said. Even if she didn’t make the ballot this time around, she vowed to run in 2012 for the Senate against Richard Lugar, which would represent an improvement. Lugar ran unopposed in 2006.

The petition for state primary ballot placement is here.

UPDATE: The fact that Jill Long Thompson was the Democratic candidate for Governor in Indiana just two years ago would seem to cut against D’Ippolito’s suggestion that Indiana Democratic politics is ruled by men.

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David Dayen

David Dayen