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Evan Bayh, veteran Hoosier politician, fails to retake Senate seat in Indiana

By Daniel Marans, Huffington Post

Republican Congressman Todd Young is projected to win Indiana’s open U.S. Senate seat on Tuesday, defeating Evan Bayh, a Democratic former senator and governor in the Hoosier State.

The victory is a disappointing loss for Democrats who had hoped Bayh’s popularity in the state would outweigh Indiana’s otherwise Republican voting tendencies. Bayh led Young in the polls for much of the contentious race.

Young, an attorney and retired Marine who ousted a sitting Democrat to win his House seat in 2010, benefited from support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in the Hoosier State.

Trump won Indiana comfortably ― with a boost from his running mate, Mike Pence, who has served as the state’s governor since 2013.

Ultimately, though, Young’s victory is due more to Bayh’s weaknesses than to his or Trump’s strengths. Young and his backers managed to erode Bayh’s early lead by depicting him as a corrupt Washington insider who had lost touch with his Hoosier roots. Bayh’s lucrative post-Senate career, in which he leveraged years of public service for high-paying corporate gigs, provided ample grist for the Republican narrative against him.

Bayh struggled to overcome this line of attack since belatedly entering the race in July. At times he even seemed to invite it, such as in August when he misstated the address of his Indianapolis condominium ― suggesting he no longer spent much time in the state.

Young takes over for Republican Dan Coats, who announced his retirement in March 2015. As a result of Young’s win, 2017 will be the first year since the late ‘80s that neither Bayh nor Coats has represented Indiana in the Senate. The two politicians traded the seat for years, with Coats first retiring at the end of 1998, Bayh taking over and Coats returning to the seat in 2011 after Bayh retired.

Young’s original opponent for the open Senate seat was former Democratic Rep. Baron Hill, the very man Young defeated to win his House seat in the Republican wave of 2010. Hill withdrew his candidacy in July, however, after senior Democrats persuaded Bayh to throw his hat in the ring.

It was not a bad bet for Democrats desperate to regain control of the Senate. If any Democrat could win statewide office in Indiana this year, Bayh, heir to a vaunted Hoosier political dynasty, was the man to do it. His father, Birch Bayh, served Indiana in the Senate for decades.

He even enjoyed flush finances, entering the race with $10 million in cash left over from his last term in the Senate.


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