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GOP Sweeps Statewide Races In Indiana

Noah Coffey

State Republican Party Chair Tim Berry called Tuesday’s election “Ladies Night” as all three female GOP statewide candidates earned emphatic victories. 

A little after nine P-M Tuesday, Governor Mike Pence took to the stage at state Republican Party headquarters in downtown Indianapolis.  Speaking to a crowd already buzzing with positivity on a night that was shaping up to be big for the GOP, Pence told them it was a historic night.

“By electing Connie Lawson as Secretary of State, Suzanne Crouch as our Auditor, Kelly Mitchell as our Treasurer, the people of Indiana have said ‘Yes’ to the common sense Republican leadership that’s creating more jobs and more opportunities for Hoosiers every day,” Pence said.

Lawson and Crouch, both incumbents by virtue of being appointed to their positions of Secretary of State and Auditor, respectively, joined Mitchell as the first all-female statewide ticket in Indiana history.  And all three cruised to comfortable victories.  Lawson replaced Charlie White, the Republican ousted two years ago in a voter fraud scandal.  She says it means the world to have earned Hoosiers’ trust.

“Serving as your Secretary of State is an honor and a responsibility that I have taken very seriously and I will take very seriously," says Lawson.  "You know that on day one I was focused on making my office the most open, honest, responsive, and accountable in the state.”

Suzanne Crouch was appointed State Auditor in the last year.  She replaced Dwayne Sawyer, who abruptly resigned just months after replacing now-GOP Chair Tim Berry.  In her victory speech, Crouch talked about the sacred trust voters place in elected officials.  And the former state lawmaker says she’s a guardian of that trust as the state’s financial watchdog.

“Every dollar that comes to government has a name and a face attached to it," says Crouch. "And so it’s incumbent upon us to be sure that those tax dollars are spent wisely, to be sure that those tax dollars are accountable.”

Kelly Mitchell, the only Republican non-incumbent, still spent the last six years working in the state Treasurer’s office.  She says travelling the state and listening to Hoosiers has been the gift of a lifetime.  But Mitchell, who defeated challenger Mike Boland, notes the work isn’t finished.

“We have a lot to celebrate," says Mitchell. "But we didn’t work this hard just to win this election; we worked this hard to make Indiana government the best that it can be.”

At a much more subdued Democrat election night gathering, Democratic Auditor candidate Michael Claytor tried to explain why his party came up so short this year.  He says it came down to low turnout:

“In Indiana, if you’re a statewide Democrat, you have to hold your own in the smaller counties and then get the big counties to perform big for you and we just didn’t get that,” says Claytor.

Marion County Clerk Beth White, who lost in the Secretary of State race, says 2014 was always going to be a tough year for Democrats.

“It’s tough in Indiana – we had no governor, no senator," says White. "It’s tough to motivate the voters when we don’t have that kind of marquee race.  So I don’t feel demoralized; I feel good about what we were able to accomplish.”

White acknowledges that Indiana is politically out of balance.

“And I think that Hoosiers really want some balance," says White. "They want some balance of ideas and I think we’ve got to continue to make the case to them that there ought to be a balanced…a Democrat and Republican balance in the Statehouse.”

Claytor says Democrats need a major candidate in a major race to help regain some of that balance.

“We need another Evan Bayh, another Frank O’Bannon, someone to excite the party and get the people out and make it move,” says Claytor.

That work for Democrats begins next year, when municipal elections take center stage, while races for governor and U-S Senator loom in 2016.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.
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