Based on the results of this year’s Republican primary, it appears conservative principles are more popular than Gov. Mike Pence, Senate speaker David Long and Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann.
All three politicians were used in a mailing endorsing state Rep. Kathy Heuer in her bid for re-election against conservative challenger Chris Judy. Voters in the 83rd District seemed unimpressed as they overwhelmingly voted to replace the entrenched incumbent with the conservative Judy.
This same result also played out in the neighboring 22nd District where Curt Nisly routed liberal incumbent Rebecca Kubacki. Nisly won despite a seemingly endless amount of money being spent by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce to prop up their socially liberal big-government heroine.
Furthermore, Michael Barranda lost in his bid to run as a socially liberal challenger to Rep. Bob Morris. It appears that voters in the 84th District prefer sending a principled conservative to represent them to yet another lawyer.
One lawyer who did get re-elected was Rep. Casey Cox. Cox’s opponents reported raising a grand total of $100 between them, yet Cox couldn’t even get 50 percent of the vote running against two non-campaigns.
Cox may face one of several top-tier candidates from his district when he runs for re-election in 2016, and his voting record may be enough to scuttle his ambitious personal agenda.
The theme of these races was Republicans ignore socially conservative voters at their own peril. While the state Chamber of Commerce will bankroll candidates who betray their constituents, it will generally not be enough to save them from the voter’s fury.
Also, it is becoming clear that voters are losing faith in Republican leadership. Pence went in the tank for Heuer, but it did nothing to save her, while putting a dent in his own image. Pence may want to be president, but he can’t deliver a House seat for an incumbent in his home state. All Pence’s endorsement did was harm his image as a conservative and a kingmaker.
In the 15th District Senate race, Liz Brown represented herself as a strident conservative. Over the next four years, we will have an opportunity to find out if Brown was honestly representing herself, and if not, electing her replacement will be job one in 2018.
A few other observations came out of this year’s election. One is that the Chamber of Commerce has become an intense enemy of conservatives, both on the national level and in Indiana.
Also, the Allen County Right to Life has been inclined to give its endorsement to social liberals that support gay marriage and other left-wing ideals. If people look at the local Right to Life endorsement as shorthand to determine who is conservative, they are allowing themselves to be deceived.
By contrast, social conservatives can rely on the endorsements of groups such as the American Family Association, Advance America and the Indiana Family Institute to make sure they aren’t voting for establishment liberal types.
All in all, this year’s primaries had a positive outcome and made the battle lines much clearer going forward.