INDIANAPOLIS — (AP) — Frustrated conservatives who want to push the Republican-controlled Indiana Legislature further to the right are trying to unseat several GOP lawmakers in Tuesday’s primary.
About two dozen so-called freedom candidates are running in Republican legislative races across the state, their targets including several high-ranking members of the GOP-dominated House.
These challengers argue that the legislature has not been aggressive enough to try to ban abortion, strengthen gun rights and roll back COVID-19 restrictions that were ordered by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb.
Republican legislative leaders argue that the “no compromise” positions taken by many challengers are impractical, and tout the state’s low taxes and unemployment and extensive private school voucher program among its conservative successes.
Unlike other GOP races across the country — including Ohio, which also has a statewide primary on Tuesday — Indiana’s legislative contests have focused on state issues, rather than the candidate closest to former President Donald Trump or who has his support.
The challengers say they are tapping into deep resentment among voters — and even winning a few seats could push the Legislature further to the right.
The House GOP campaign operation has given more than $1 million to primary candidates — including those trying to unseat Republican representatives. Curt Nisly of Milford and John Jacob of Indianapolis, both heroes of the ‘freedom candidate’ challengers for proposals blocked by legislative leaders, including a total ban on abortion and seeking to undo all restrictions on abortion status regarding COVID-19 as of the end of 2020.
Meanwhile, the Liberty Defense PAC, which has worked to rally support for its endorsed candidates, had raised a total of about $95,000 by the end of March.
“Some of our incumbents face very, very committed opponents,” Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said. “You can’t take any risks. Our team did everything they needed to do, knocking on doors, lots of contact with constituents, that sort of thing. No one should take it lightly.
Some challengers say their movement grew out of protests over COVID-19 shutdowns and complaints that GOP lawmakers failed to take action to end Holcomb’s executive orders, including a mask mandate.
Brittany Carroll, a Greenwood family law attorney who is running against Rep. Peggy Mayfield of Martinsville, said too many government officials, from Holcomb to local school board members, have ignored public concerns and favored interests. financial. She and other challengers said they were undeterred by the heavy expense of defeating them.
“Trying to buy these seats for certain people is not government of the people, it’s government of the Statehouse,” Carroll said.
The “freedom candidates” are running primarily in heavily Republican districts, so even primary wins by far-right challengers would likely offer few opportunities for Democrats to shake the current 71-29 GOP majority in bedroom.
But victories for Nisly and Jacob and some of their allies could prove a major thorn in the side of Huston and other legislative leaders, said Mike Murphy, a former Republican lawmaker from Indianapolis and former GOP chairman for Marion County.
“So Huston has to deal with them, he can’t just censor them or say they’re inappropriate,” Murphy said. “He actually has to negotiate.”
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