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Idaho Echoes in Indiana?

People often mix Idaho up with Iowa, but never Idaho and Indiana. Many of the trends in Idaho's primaries were present in Indiana's primaries. Perhaps there are some tea leaves to read.

Conservatives in Indiana have become increasingly frustrated with Indiana's establishment leadership. Acting under old Governor Mitch Daniels's "truce," Indiana has tried to ignore social issues while practicing fiscal discipline and promoting economic development. It had no constitutional carry for guns until this year. Its governor vetoed a bill barring men from participating in women's sports (unlike in Idaho where such a bill became law with the governor's signature). Especially infuriating to the insurgent candidates was the fact that Idaho's establishment refused to consider any restrictions on abortion in light of the Supreme Court's apparent willingness to entertain such laws. Social conservatives have been stiffed. Or so they think.

Building frustration among conservatives throughout the state led to a small-scale insurgency in the primaries. 23 "liberty candidates" challenged incumbents. The establishment Political Action Committee in Indiana poured in more than $1 million into those races to protect establishment Republicans, while liberty-associated PACs raised under $100,000 to support challengers. The results?

Two insurgents emerged victorious from the 23. In one race, Lorissa Sweet, a County Council member from rural northern Indiana, defeated Rep. Dan Leonard. Leonard had bottled up lots of conservative legislation in Indiana's statehouse. He thus played the role of an Indiana Chuck Winder, who prevented floor votes like the grocery tax repeal and bans on gender reassignment treatments for youth. Sweet won the race 57% to 43% from more than 7,000 votes.

Julie McGuire defeated Rep. John Jacobs decisively as well, 61-39%, with very low turnout of just over 3,000 votes.

Most of the other liberty insurgents lost without cracking the 35% mark, though some were more competitive.

Other redistricting races were won by conservative candidates. Bruce Borders, a conservative legislator and sometime Elvis impersonator, defeated incumbent Jeff Ellington 53% to 47% with a big turnout of almost 8,500. Long live the King!

Compared to the Indiana insurgents, Idaho's have less to complain about and are probably more organized and better funded. It would be difficult to judge whether Idaho insurgents have better candidates or more money per individual candidates, but that is also a factor.

Turnout was lower than normal in Indiana--and turnout averaged less than 25% in the past two off year elections.

Idaho has 35 Senate elections and 70 House elections. Well over half of these 105 races pit establishment incumbents or those allied with the establishment against insurgent candidates.


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