May 24th, 2024

Spartz fends off Republican rivals to win contentious Indiana congressional primary

By Isabella Volmert, The Associated Press on May 7, 2024.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Two-term U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz won a contentious Republican primary to defend her seat just months after she decided to run for reelection in a campaign that focused attention on her opposition to sending aid to her native Ukraine.

She defeated eight rival Republicans to secure her place on the ballot this fall in a solidly Republican district.

The first and only Ukrainian-born House member, Spartz previously backed support for the country. But ahead of her primary contest, she reversed her position and voted against sending $61 billion in aid to Ukraine. She defended the switch, arguing her loyalty is to America first and saying she wanted to see policy on the U.S.-Mexico border included in the aid package, a position largely shared by her Republican challengers.

The election in the northern suburbs of Indianapolis was in part a test of whether Spartz’s maneuvers would pay off. Her stance was widely shared among her competitors, including state Rep. Chuck Goodrich, who loaned $4.6 million to his campaign. Goodrich attacked Spartz over her previous support for Ukraine, saying she puts “Ukraine first.” Spartz trailed Goodrich in spending and fundraising by millions of dollars.

The primary marked the latest twist in Spartz’s political career. She won a tight primary race in 2020 and wasn’t challenged for the GOP nomination in 2022. She initially planned to leave Congress last year, opting against reelection to her House seat and forgoing a chance to seek the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Mike Braun

She later reversed course, deciding to seek another term in the House. But her shifting plans gave an opening to Goodrich to raise a sizable sum of money and raised the potential that Spartz would be the first House Republican to lose a primary this year in a race that wasn’t affected by redistricting.

Statewide, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and President Joe Biden piled up more delegates heading to their respective party conventions later this summer.

Trump took Indiana by 16 points in 2020 and is favored there against Biden this year. But in a warning that some in the GOP aren’t comfortable with their party’s standard bearer, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was still attracting support months after dropping out of the race.

Indiana voters do not have the option to vote ” uncommitted.” The protest-vote movement in some states against Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war has cast doubt on the president’s Democratic support in November.

The most watched and expensive contest within the state was the GOP’s six-way race to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb. Braun came out on top.

Braun had quickly became the frontrunner in the race, bolstered by several advantages: name recognition, money and Trump’s endorsement. He spent more than $6 million in the first three months of 2024 alone.

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch campaigned to slash the state’s income tax. Two former commerce secretaries, Brad Chambers – who had contributed $10 million to his campaign – and Eric Doden also ran but didn’t break through with conservative voters who decided the primary.

Chambers and Doden in particular attacked Braun over his record with law enforcement in the course of the campaign. Braun proposed a bill in 2020 to reform qualified immunity, which protects police officers from most lawsuits stemming from work performed in the line of duty. He later backed down on the measure following intense backlash from law enforcement.

Once seen as a probable Hoosier State governor, former Attorney General Curtis Hill struggled to compete. Political novice Jamie Reitenour was also on the ballot.

Braun has pitched himself as a political outsider and social conservative, the same as he did in his 2018 senate campaign. He will face Democratic nominee and former state schools superintendent Jennifer McCormick, who was uncontested, and Libertarian nominee Donald Rainwater in November.

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