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ADVANTAGE INCUMBENTS: With election commission rulings, nearly half of legislators seeking reelection are unopposed in either party

UPDATE: The list of candidates in Indiana’s May 3 party primaries grew shorter — and the list of unchallenged incumbents grew longer — as the Indiana Election Commission reviewed more than 20 challenges to ballot qualifications during a long and at times noisy meeting Friday.

The meeting, which continued for nearly seven hours through the afternoon and evening, was interrupted at times by shouts from the crowd as candidates were removed from the ballot for reasons ranging from a lack of qualifying signatures to challenges to their history of voting in party primaries.

Among the candidates removed from the ballot were three in the U.S. Senate party primaries — two Democrats and one Republican, leaving incumbent Republican Todd Young and the Democratic mayor of Hammond, Thomas McDermott, unchallenged for nomination.

Others removed included primary challengers to four incumbent House members, a change which means the list of legislative incumbents who remain unchallenged in either the primary or general elections grew from 49 to 53 — nearly half of the 109 seats in which incumbents are seeking reelection. Party officials will have the option of filling ballot vacancies for those and other offices after the primary.

The commission also turned down challenges to the ballot status of Senate candidate McDermott from a Democratic primary opponent who had been removed from the ballot herself, to U.S. Rep. Jim Banks based upon his congressional vote on Jan. 6, 2021, to overturn President Biden’s win in the Electoral College, and to state Rep. Jeff Ellington on grounds that he had not been residing in the district to which he said he had moved to challenge another Republican incumbent, Bruce Borders, in the primary.

In voting to deny the “insurrection challenge” to Banks, Republican commission chairman Paul Okeson called the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol a “regrettable mark in history” but said he saw no grounds for finding that Banks had taken part in an insurrection.– The Indiana Citizen

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EARLIER: A total of 49 incumbent Indiana legislators seeking reelection — 38 in the House and 11 in the Senate — faced neither primary nor general election opponents as of Friday’s end of candidate filing.

With all 100 House seats and 25 of the 50 Senate seats up for election this year, that means that well over a third are uncontested at this point.

That will change in the coming months. Indiana election law allows party officials to fill vacancies on the general election ballot after the primaries; typically, some but not all of the vacancies are filled by the deadline for doing so, which this year is July 5.

Candidate filing began in the office of the Indiana Secretary of State on Jan. 5 and ended at noon Friday, followed by the posting of the final list of candidates.

The May 3 primary will be the first election in which congressional, state legislative and some county candidates will be running in districts that were redrawn based upon population counts in the 2020 census.

The lines were redrawn in 2021 by the Indiana House and Senate, both of which are controlled by Republican supermajorities. As in many states, the redistricting process in Indiana was widely criticized as gerrymandering that would strengthen the advantage of incumbent legislators of both parties and discourage competition, particularly in the general election.

In addition, critics of the redistricting process have warned that it increasingly discourages cooperation and coalition-building, instead drawing candidates from the extremes of both parties, encouraging competition in the primaries.

A total of 27 incumbent legislators — three in the Senate and 24 in the House, all of them Republicans except for recently appointed Democratic Sen. Rodney Pol — will face challenges in the primary. Sixteen of them — one Republican in the Senate and 15 in the House — face no general election opposition pending the filling of ballot vacancies.

Two of the legislators will face primary challenges from other incumbents of their own party due to the redrawing of district lines. Also as a result of redistricting as well as retirements, a total of 16 seats — five in the Senate and 11 in the House — are open.

Candidate filing for the U.S. Senate seat up for election this year and the nine congressional districts resulted in contests for all. Of the Senate and congressional incumbents, only four — Reps. Jackie Walorski, Jim Banks, Victoria Spartz and Larry Bucshon — will not face primary challenges.

In addition to those offices on the primary ballots, three state offices — secretary of state, auditor and treasurer — will be nominated by party conventions rather than primary voters.

Candidates in school board elections, also on the November general election ballot with some running in newly redrawn districts, can begin filing to run on July 27, and the filing period continues through Aug. 26. — The Indiana Citizen

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