Dan Coats speaks Tuesday in Indianapolis after winning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Evan Bayh.
Former Sen. Dan Coats, an Indiana Republican who left office in 1998, successfully launched the first phase of his comeback Tuesday, winning the GOP Senate nomination for the seat being vacated by two-term Democratic incumbent Evan Bayh.
With 76 percent of precincts reporting, Coats has 40 percent of the vote. State Sen. Marlin Stutzman, a strong conservative with significant tea party support, finished second with 30 percent, and former Rep. John Hostettler, another conservative, trailed with 22 percent. Two other candidates shared the remainder.
From the outset, Coats, 66, was the choice of the Washington GOP establishment, but some worried about his post-Senate career, which was mostly spent as a D.C. lobbyist. He also served as ambassador to Germany under President George W. Bush.
Coats will face Rep. Brad Ellsworth in November. Bayh announced his retirement too late in the process for Democrats to hold a primary; party leaders will select Ellsworth, a pro-life and pro-gun moderate conservative who cast a widely watched vote in favor of the health care bill, as their nominee on May 15.
Coats made it clear, in accepting the nomination, that he would go after President Obama as well as Ellsworth:
In light of the damage that President Obama’s policies already have done to the United States of America, as Hoosiers we cannot afford to be any part of it.
We cannot and we will not stand idly by and watch as our personal liberties are diluted, our national security diminished, and our fiscal health destroyed.
And we absolutely cannot afford to elect someone to the United States Senate who will enable this radical move to the left. Folks, anyone who has voted to reappoint Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House cannot be trusted to protect Indiana’s interests.
We are going to confront Congressman Ellsworth and his liberal Washington allies because all Hoosiers, including those who may have voted for him in the past, deserve to have a clear choice in November.
Sen. John Cornyn, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee who went out on a limb early by recruiting Coats for the contest, was jubilant.
The contrast in this campaign could not be more clear for voters in Indiana this November. Brad Ellsworth was hand-picked by Washington Democrat party bosses because they know he will serve as another rubberstamp for President Obama and Harry Reid’s deeply unpopular agenda if he is elected to the U.S. Senate. Ellsworth has voted with Nancy Pelosi 81 percent of the time in Congress, and he has eagerly helped the Democrats in Washington pass their massive health spending bill and failed stimulus debacle.
Hari Sevugan, the press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, saw it differently:
In Dan Coats, national Republicans got who they wanted, and who they got is an establishment Republican steeped in the culture of Washington; a super-lobbyist beholden to special interests for his fortune. From Wall Street to big oil, Dan Coats has acquired $2.5 million in assets and an income of more than $800,000 by marketing his services to the highest bidder and securing bailouts for Wall Street. Dan Coats may represent national Republicans to a tee, but he doesn’t represent the values of Hoosiers anymore.
In the overwhelmingly Republican 4th Congressional District, which is being vacated by Rep. Steve Buyer (R), the GOP nomination went to Secretary of State Todd Rokita (R), who easily topped a 13-candidate primary field. Rokita is all but certain to win in November.
In the 5th CD, veteran Rep. Dan Burton (R) survived a tough battle for renomination against six challengers for the seat he first won in 1982.
Ellsworth's 8th CD seat will be contested by state Rep. Trent Van Haaften (D) and surgeon Larry Bucshon (R).
And in the 9th CD, where Rep. Baron Hill (D) is seeking re-election, the news of the day is that former Rep. Mike Sodrel will not be Hill's GOP opponent for the fifth consecutive time. He finished third in the primary to attorney Todd Young.