Hoosier voters face not only a compelling vote for president that will have a national impact. Their decision on who becomes the next U.S. senator could determine which party controls that chamber.
The choice between Democrat Evan Bayh and Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Young merits considerable thought.
Bayh is the former two-term governor and senator who, along with Mitch Daniels, has done more than just about anyone else to shape the modern political contours of our state. He opened his political career in Indiana with the sting of defeat, managing his father’s last Senate campaign for this very seat. It was a two-term congressman, Dan Quayle, who ended Birch Bayh’s political career in the Reagan revolution year of 1980. Evan Bayh emerged four years later as secretary of state, then commenced a 16-year Democratic dominance in the governor’s office by defeating Lt. Gov. John Mutz in 1988.
After two terms as governor — where he stewarded the creation of 350,000 jobs, a series of tax cuts and the successful 21st Century Scholars program — Bayh figured to challenge U.S. Sen. Dan Coats in 1998, only to watch the Republican abruptly retire.
While Sen. Birch Bayh had a legendary Senate career where he authored Title IX and two constitutional amendments while never winning an election by more than a few percentage points, Evan Bayh was much more cautious, though he won his two terms in landslide fashion.
Like Gov. Mike Pence today, Bayh’s policy decisions seemed to be framed around potential presidential campaigns that would elude him as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton emerged.
In 2010, Bayh followed Coats’ path and abruptly announced his retirement just hours before the filing deadline. The irony is that Coats had resurfaced, setting up the race that was supposed to occur in 1998.
Bayh had actually mulled this decision for months. It turned into a Democratic disaster that actually helped create a path to power for Todd Young. Without Bayh on the ballot in the 2010 Tea Party year, Indiana Democrats lost the two southern Indiana congressional seats, one where Young upset U.S. Rep. Baron Hill. A slew of Democratic General Assembly seats, city halls and county seats were lost in the next couple of cycles as these counties veered to the GOP, rendering the Democratic Party an urban and college town party.
It allowed the GOP power to draw the new maps in 2011. Those voting district maps bedevil Democrats to this very day.
With Young’s upset of Hill, it set him up as the Republican giant killer. He won a tight three-way primary in May of 2010 by defeating former Republican congressman Mike Sodrel. In doing so, Young gained a reputation as a prodigious fundraiser as well as a brash, aggressive campaigner.
On the policy side, he gained powerful allies like Speaker Paul Ryan, ending up on the highly influential Ways & Means Committee. He has earned a reputation as a policy innovator, proposing the REINS Act that would, for instance, force EPA regulations to have an up or down vote in Congress.
Young thought he would have a rematch with Baron Hill this year, until Bayh was persuaded by national Democrats to force Hill out of the race in July in an effort to win a Senate majority. The fact that he sat on almost $10 million for six years made him an attractive alternative.
This has become a knock-down, drag-out race. To believe Young’s campaign message, Bayh would crimp your Second Amendment rights and would keep Obamacare in place. In fact, Bayh backs the Second Amendment but seeks reforms that would keep guns out of the hands of terrorists on no fly lists and away from criminals and the mentally ill. Bayh would rather modify Obamacare than replace it.
Bayh would have you believe that Young seeks to privatize Social Security, noting that he calls it a “Ponzi Scheme,” which it is. From an actuarial perspective, it is unsustainable as the Baby Boom generation retires. Young’s core message has been one of the type of entitlement reform that Mitch Daniels advocated in his “Red Menace” speech of 2011, as well as revamping the tax system with the goal of job creation.
Young accuses Bayh of being a lobbyist, which he technically isn’t, though he works for a lobbying firm, and of enriching himself during and after his Senate career, with financial disclosures supporting that premise. Bayh casts Young as a hypocrite for taking $160,000 in campaign donations from lobbyists and says Young backed tax breaks for firms like Carrier, which fled to Mexico.
Bayh is a Washington insider, becoming just the latest former senator from Indiana not to move back to the state to live among us after leaving office. Young has the Tea Party pedigree that helped shape a handful of government shutdowns and the gridlock that stalls Capitol Hill.
This is a battle of heavyweights, their careers interlocking at key points, both poised to become a dominant face of their party should they win on Nov. 8. Polls show this to be a tight race, and it beckons your interest, study and vote. Hanging in the balance could be which party controls the U.S. Senate and the future make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hoosiers, you face a big decision.