Importantville: Post-Midterm Takeaways

With the Midterm Election over, what now?

Illustration by Kris Davidson

Welcome to Really Importantville. Some have asked if Importantville will go on hiatus with Election Day behind us. I have no plans to stop anytime soon, though I may briefly go down to one newsletter a week for paid subscribers only during the Holidays, as my wife and I welcome a tiny denizen of Importantville into the world soon. Indianapolis has a crucial mayoral race next November. We’re home to Buttigieg, who could become a 2020 Democratic force in several months. We’re home to rising stars in the Republican party such as Sen. Todd Young and Rep. Jim Banks. Pence is still veep. Hoosiers are everywhere you look in federal government. And we’re home to at least two companies that could go public in the next few years: Lessonly and ClusterTruck. There are too many interesting storylines to cover in Indiana to quit now.

Days to 2020: 726

Days to Indianapolis Mayoral Election: 362

Indiana is still Trump Country—love it or loathe it. A lot of progressives in and around Indianapolis—Republican and Democrat alike—have a conception of the state that is far from reality. But for eight counties, the vast majority of Indiana went red on Election Day (Porter is still outstanding: The county board of commissioners is calling on the FBI to investigate—that’s so Region!). Even Hamilton County, which Sen. Joe Donnelly lavished with attention throughout the cycle, went red by 8 points. And Donnelly lost every single doughnut county.

Indiana Democrats have a real problem. They hold no statewide office. Running to the center right didn’t work here. To be competitive, Democrats tell me, they’ll have to rethink their entire approach. Chairman John Zody will host a presser later this morning to discuss the party’s 2019 approach. What’s more, Indiana bucked a trend of other Midwestern states such as Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin clapping back against Trump during the 2018 cycle.

One solution: re-thinking and expanding their issue set. “I think voters here probably are ready for universal healthcare,” South Bend Mayor and possible 2020 presidential contender Pete Buttigieg told me recently before the Election. “I think even in Indiana, criminal justice reform, including marijuana [legalization]. We’re probably there. Maybe not a 70 percent majority, but a majority. I think teacher pay. Teacher pay is an easy one … People want to hear some new ideas. If not new ideas, at least commit to certain things. I really think a state-wide campaign in Indiana would do well, especially on the criminal justice stuff. To find common cause between the younger, Libertarian right that’s not so sure about the Republican party as an institution. And a more traditional, progressive coalition. I think you can get there on drugs. I think you can get there on a lot of things related to criminal justice.”

A few other interesting takeaways:

  • Donnelly always had an uphill battle. His campaign knew he had to run a perfect race to even have a chance. In six years, he bet that he could win over a coalition of veterans, farmers, law enforcement and blue collar workers by focusing on issues such as agriculture, fighting opioids, and veteran’s affairs. He was hailed by Democrats and Republicans alike for the quality of his constituent affairs. But in the end, in this hyperpartisan era, if you stand in the middle, you’ll get run over.
  • Despite their statewide ails, Indiana Young Democrats are building a deep bench of potential future stars, including Chris Chyung in District 15, who became the first Asian American to serve in the Indiana State House, and J.D. Ford, who became the first openly gay state legislator and flipped a Senate seat from red to blue for the first time in three decades.
  • Vigo County, the nation’s most accurate bellwether in presidential races, went for Donnelly—the second Senate race in a row it’s pegged wrong.

WHERE’S VEEP? He has no scheduled events today.

HAPPENING NEXT WEDNESDAY: Barring a last-minute change of fortunes, Young will likely become the next chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2020 cycle—a potentially brutal job, but one that could give the Hoosier senator more influence on the national stage. I asked Young Tuesday night if he’d be the next chair. “That all depends on my colleagues,” he told me.

How Indiana’s pols are responding to Sessions’ sacking

In the wake of the president requesting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation, four ranking Democrat members sent Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats a letter requesting “all documents, records, memoranda, correspondence, or other communication, or any portion thereof relevant to the work of the Office of the Special Counsel, or the departure of the Attorney General.”

  • Todd Young: “I thank Attorney General Sessions for his distinguished public service to the nation. I look forward to reviewing the qualifications of President Trump’s nominee for Attorney General.”
  • Jim Banks told Howey Politics Indiana that Mueller’s investigation should go on “without political interference.”
  • Alex Azar—the HHS Secretary and former Eli Lilly executive who will be in Indianapolis tomorrow—has been mentioned as a shortlister to replace Jeff Sessions.

NEW STATEHOUSE LEADERSHIP IN PLAY: In the Indiana Senate, Sen. Rod Bray will be President Pro Tem. Brian Bosma landed his sixth term as Speaker of the House. Fort Wayne Rep. Phil GiaQuinta is minority leader.


James Arkin, Politico: Mike Braun beats Joe Donnelly, flips Indiana to Senate GOP

[Indiana’s Senate] race became the center of the Senate map at the end of the election: Trump rallied there twice in the closing weekend of the campaign, and former President Barack Obama headlined an event for Donnelly on Sunday.

That’s all for this week. Not a subscriber? You can subscribe today for premium updates.