HAMMOND | Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said Tuesday he is running for U.S. Senate and may already have backing from at least two of the party leaders whose support he will need to be named the Democratic nominee for Sen. Evan Bayh's seat.
Bayh, D-Ind., announced Monday he won't run for re-election, and no Democrat met Tuesday's deadline to submit the 4,500 signatures necessary to get on the primary ballot. The 32-member Democratic State Central Committee will meet sometime before June 30 to pick a nominee to run against the Republican primary winner in the fall.
Three of those committee members already know McDermott well: Lake County Clerk Mike Brown, Porter County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Chidester and Bonnie Reese, a Wheatfield Democrat.
Brown said Tuesday, "I would consider someone from Lake County like Mayor McDermott before I considered anybody else."
Reese said, "I know Tom very well. We are friends. If nobody but Tom announces from the 1st (Congressional) District, then I'm for him."
Chidester said he is keeping an open mind and won't commit to anyone yet.
Lake County Sheriff Rogelio "Roy" Dominguez, a political rival of McDermott, hasn't weighed in on whether he would run for Senate, but said Tuesday he has been talking to a number of potential candidates and party leaders. He said they are yearning for a Senate candidate who will unite the party in what is expected to be a challenging year for Democrats running for Congress.
McDermott said, "I'm the kind of guy who can get elected. Evan Bayh is quitting because he says Washington is broken. Why don't we consider somebody from outside D.C.? I will work hard. I'm pretty quick on my feet. I can raise money. I would run a full, coast-to-coast, north, south, east, west campaign in Indiana."
County Surveyor George Van Til, another McDermott rival, said Tuesday, he hopes the eventual Senate candidate is "a real Democrat." The 40-year-old McDermott switched parties from Republican to Democrat prior to his 2003 run for Hammond mayor.
Bayh stunned political circles Monday when he announced he would not seek a third term this year. Bayh's popularity in the state had discouraged any major challenge to him, so the timing of his withdrawal, less than 24 hours before the petition deadline, left Democrats no time to submit 500 certified signatures in each of the state's nine congressional districts to qualify. The Democratic ballot will be blank for that Senate seat in the May 4 primary, and voters will have no choice in that matter.
Instead, the 32 members of the Democratic State Central Committee will select their party's nominee. State Democratic Chairman Dan Parker said the committee will have until June 30 to fill the spot.
Other names being floated are U.S. Reps. Baron Hill and Brad Ellsworth, who represent southern Indiana congressional districts.
Republican Dan Coats, a former downstate congressman and U.S. senator, said Tuesday he has more than enough petition signatures to put him on the primary ballot as he seeks the Senate seat Bayh is leaving. Coats will face least four other Republicans expect to be on the ballot: former U.S. Rep. John Hostettler; state Sen. Marlin Stutzman, of Howe; financial adviser Don Bates Jr., of Winchester; and Fishers businessman Richard Behney.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
U.S. Sen Evan Bayh’s response to a question Tuesday on "CBS Morning Show" about his plans:
"I would tell you, but I don’t know. I’m going to ... what we call in Indiana in basketball ... I’m going to play until the final second ticks off the clock and then think about what’s next. But if I could create one job in the private sector by helping to grow a business, that would be one more than Congress has created in the last six months."