Indiana Politics, September 2018

The historic surge of female political candidates this fall is a win for both parties.

Running Club

It’s too early to tell whether November’s midterm elections will send a blue wave of Democrats into Congress. But in Indiana, we’re certain to see a pink one: A record number of Hoosier women are their party’s nominee this year. Seven of the 18 candidates for the U.S. House in Indiana are women. (The previous record came during the 2016 cycle, when five female major-party nominees populated the ballot.) And a slew of down-ballot candidates are running for seats in the Indiana Statehouse. On the Democratic side of the aisle, five women are vying for spots in Congress, and 45 are running in Statehouse races. On the Republican side, two are running for Congress, while 16 are up for Statehouse seats.

Of the Republican candidates for local and state office, half are alums of the Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series, a program begun in 1990 by the former U.S. Senator to groom Republican women for office. The original plan: By 2000, the series would sunset as women reached parity with their male counterparts. That hasn’t yet happened. But since its founding, 509 alumnae have graduated from the program, which includes eight months of political training for women with Leslie Knope–like ambition—though they don’t need fictional characters to inspire their bids for office. “We have real role models,” says Lawren Mills, president of the series’ board of governors. “Look at Blair Milo, Susan Brooks, Jackie Walorski, and Kelly Mitchell.”

Not to be outdone, Indiana Democrats are launching a similar organization called Hoosier Women Forward. This month, leaders will pick the first group of between 20 to 25 participants for a nine-month inaugural training program, according to Elise Shrock, a lobbyist at Tamm Capital Group and one the group’s founding board members. “I don’t think our perspective will ever change until people see diversity as less of a quota issue and more of a benefit,” she says.

Mock the Vote

This fall’s Joe Donnelly–Mike Braun Senate race is looking like a hot one—to the point that President Trump has already coined a schoolyard taunt for Donnelly. “Sleeping Joe” doesn’t quite measure up to “Low-Energy Jeb,” but that’s OK; Hoosier politics offers a long history of better nicknames.

Paul McNutt

Paul McNutt was an ambitious Democratic governor. But after he squabbled with unions, one organizer started referring to him as “Hoosier Hitler”—a charge historians think slowed his rise in the national party.

Charles Fairbanks, a transplant from Ohio, served as VP for Theodore Roosevelt after representing Indiana in the U.S. Senate. Because he seemed calm and
distant, he was known as the “Indiana Icicle.”

Schuyler Colfax

Schuyler Colfax was Ulysses Grant’s VP; thanks to his cheerful personality, colleagues called him “Smiler” Colfax.

During his 1876 bid for governor, Benjamin Harrison earned the nickname “Kid Gloves” for his aristocratic vibe. He lost to a more populist candidate, James “Blue Jeans Bill” Williams.