House Battle Focuses on Possibility of Supermajority
GOP expected to keep control, but 7-seat gain would guarantee quorum
In the race for the Indiana House, the battle this year isn't so much over whether Republicans will hold their majority as over whether they can reach a supermajority.
Republicans reached 60 seats last election, close enough to 67 to start them thinking about it. A two-thirds majority carries only one extra benefit in Indiana: it prevents the minority party from denying a quorum to conduct business. After Democratic walkouts the last two years over a right-to-work law, a supermajority is a GOP goal.
Party chairman Eric Holcomb predicts Republicans will add seats, and says the seven-seat gain needed for a two-thirds majority is in reach. He says Republicans will compete statewide, including some traditionally Democratic areas -- he maintains two open seats in Lake County are winnable, as well as the seats of Crown Point's Shelli VanDenburgh and East Chicago's Mara Candelaria-Reardon.
Both parties agree last year's redistricting benefited Republicans -- Democratic chairman Dan Parker says it's gerrymandered in their favor, while Holcomb says it unwound a Democratic gerrymander. Both parties agree Democrat Peggy Welch is vulnerable after being drawn into a district that replaces most of her Bloomington homebase with heavily Republican Martinsville. But Parker predicts Democrats will recapture the seat of lieutenant governor candidate Sue Ellspermann (R-Ferdinand), and could pick up two seats in Indianapolis. The combination of a scandal surrounding retiring Republican Phil Hinkle and a bitter primary to replace him helps Democrats' odds there, while Parker predicts a tough race in a redrawn district for northside Republican Cindy Noe.
Both parties are coping with a wave of retirements, with 12 Democratic incumbents and eight Republicans not seeking reelection.
Republicans are guaranteed two pickups in newly drawn open seats in Fishers and Bremen -- their candidates are unopposed. And one party will lose an incumbent in western Indiana, where Representatives Bruce Borders (R-Jasonville) and Kreg Battles (D-Vincennes) are facing each other. Both parties list that district among those they're most apprehensive about.
And Parker says not to overlook the Senate. Democrats can only win control of the chamber if they sweep all 12 Republican seats they're contesting, plus the governorship -- a near-impossible challenge. But Parker likes Democrats' odds against four Republican senators in Marion County, whom the party has labeled extremists. Beating all four would undo the supermajority Republicans already hold in the Senate.