Gov. Mike Pence (R), whose name appears from time to time on the ever-growing list of Republicans considering a presidential run, appears to be drawing at least one name opponent for the 2016 Indiana statewide race. The Hoosier State is one of 11 entities to hold their gubernatorial vote in the presidential election year, thus putting a potential crimp into any plan the governor may have about entering the national campaign.
Most believe Pence will seek re-election to a second term, especially since political heavyweights Evan Bayh, the Democratic former governor and senator, and former gubernatorial nominee John Gregg have both said they will not run for governor in 2016.
But, former US Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN-9) is making moves to suggest that he will enter the contest. Hill is leaving his DC lobbying firm and moving back to Indiana and reportedly is setting a financial budget as to what he will require to launch and conduct a competitive campaign.
Hill served 10 non-consecutive years in the House, and belongs to a small group of members who have twice lost their seats as incumbents. Hill was originally elected to the House in 1998, and fell to businessman Mike Sodrel (R) in the Bush re-election year of 2004. Undaunted, he ran once more two years later and re-claimed the seat in the 2006 Democratic landslide. But, in the Republican wave of 2010, Rep. Hill once again found himself with fewer votes than his opponent on Election Night; this time it was attorney Todd Young (R) who was easily re-elected (62-34 percent) to a third term last month.
With Pence posting job approval ratings over 60 percent in recent public opinion polls, ex-Rep. Hill has his work cut out for him to deny the governor a second term. This is particularly true when remembering Indiana has trended so heavily Republican in the past three elections. One thing a proposed Hill candidacy will likely accomplish, however, is making Pence decide earlier than he would like about joining the presidential campaign. Though Hill is going to be a clear underdog in a challenge to Pence, he is a serious candidate who will, at the very least, keep the governor bogged down on the political home front.
The Buckeye State of Ohio has been a very active political place in the post-2014 election period. Already this week, Sen. Rob Portman (R) said he will not run for president, but will seek re-election to his current position. This has led to potential Democratic senatorial candidates making some initial moves.
Last week, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman announced that he would not seek a fifth term in office next year. This creates speculation that the leader of Ohio’s largest city and fastest-growing major municipality would challenge Portman for the Senate seat. According to local news reports, however, those close to the mayor say he is unlikely to make such a run.
But, others are signaling interest, or non-interest. Former Gov. Ted Strickland (D), who lost to current incumbent John Kasich (R) in 2010, leads the list of potential Portman opponents. Youngstown Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) is another possible candidate, but he has been linked to several statewide runs previously and has yet to risk his safe House seat in an attempt to capture a more significant position. Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld (D) is also signaling interest in a senatorial run.
One person that Portman will not have to face is Columbus Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH-3). The congresswoman is saying publicly that she has “no interest” in running for the Senate, but is mentioned as a potential candidate for mayor in the now open 2015 contest.
Sen. Portman is a strong campaigner and one of the better national fundraisers. He will clearly be the favorite for re-election regardless of whom the Democrats field against him but, with Ohio again becoming a key presidential battleground state, both parties will be running intense political operations from one corner of the state to the other. Should the Democrats again carry Ohio at the presidential level, the party’s senatorial candidate likely will receive an unearned bounce that could prove significant in a close race.
As always in 21st century American politics, Ohio is again becoming a place of great national political interest.