Indianapolis ( Associated Press) — Frustrated conservatives wanting to push the Republican-controlled Indiana Legislature to the right are trying to oust several GOP lawmakers In Tuesday’s primary.
Roughly two dozen so-called independence candidates are in the Republican legislative race across the state, their targets including several top-ranking members of the GOP-dominated House.
Those challengers argue that the legislature has not been aggressive enough in attempting to ban abortion, increase gun rights, and reverse the COVID-19 restrictions ordered by Republican Gov.
Republican legislative leaders argue that the “no compromise” stance adopted by many challengers is not practical and cites low state taxes and unemployment and the comprehensive private school voucher program among their conservative successes.
Unlike other GOP races across the country – including Ohio, which also has a statewide primary on Tuesday – Indiana legislative contests have focused on state issues, rather than which candidate is closest to or has support for former President Donald Trump.
Challengers say they are tapping into deep resentment among voters – and may even move the Legislature to the right by winning a few seats.
The House GOP campaign campaign has given more than $1 million to candidates for the primary—including what Republicans are trying to oust Rep. Kurt Nisley of Milford and John Jacob of Indianapolis, both protagonists of “independence candidate” challengers to proposals blocked by legislative leaders, including a total abortion ban and demanding the repeal of all state COVID-19 restrictions by the end of 2020.
Meanwhile, the Liberty Defense PAC, which has worked to support the candidates it supports, had raised a total of $95,000 by the end of March.
“Some of our office bearers are facing very, very busy opponents,” Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said. “You can’t take any chances. Our team is doing everything they need to do, knocking on doors, a lot of voter interaction, stuff like that. No one should take this lightly. “
Some challengers say their agitation has been fueled by protests against the COVID-19 shutdown And complaints that GOP legislators didn’t act to nullify Holcombe’s executive orders, including a masked mandate.
Brittany Carroll, a family law attorney in Greenwood running against Rep. Peggy Mayfield of Martinsville, said many government officials, from Holcomb to members of the local school board, ignored the public’s concerns and supported the interests of the money. He and other challengers said they were not afraid of the huge expense to defeat them.
“For some people trying to buy these seats, it’s not the people’s government, it’s the statehouse’s government,” Carroll said.
The “candidates of independence” are running primarily in heavily Republican districts, so even a primary victory by far-right challengers will provide some opportunities for Democrats to break into the GOP’s current 71-29 House majority.
But the victories of Nisley and Jacob and some of their allies could prove to be a major thorn in the road for Huston and other legislative leaders, said Mike Murphy, a former Republican legislator for Indianapolis and chairman of the Marion County GOP.
“Then Huston has to deal with them, he can’t censor them or say they’re inappropriate,” Murphy said. “He’s really got to negotiate.”