A Key Hoosier Congressional Showdown—Democrat Christina Hale v. “Team Red’s” Victoria Spartz June 16, 2020
“Trifecta.” That’s what we must get in 11/2020. It’s the only way to defeat Demagogue Donald and his lapdog followers. As with governors and the state legislative chambers, we must win the “Big Three” nationally—the White House, the Senate, and the House. Although 11/2020 is political eons away, our chances of flipping the Oval Office and the Senate currently look good. However, do not forget the House. Just because “Team Blue” took the House in 2018, does not mean that “Team Red” can’t quickly get it back. In 2010, GOPers recaptured the House after just four years, taking 63 seats (“Pelosi,” Ball, M., 2020). Currently, “Team Blue” has a 233 v. 199 or 34 seat edge over “Team Red.” However, all the GOP needs to make Speaker Pelosi turn over her gavel are 19 seats for a 218 majority (See Congressional Research Service). Since 2018, Democrats lost the NJ 2nd District when Jeff Van Drew flipped to the GOP. And on 5/12/2020, hard line Trump wannabe Mike Garcia took CA’s 25th Congressional District in the Santa Clarita Valley’s special election to replace Dem. Katie Hill. Hill, remember, resigned over a sexual scandal. Yes, Democrats have a better chance to defeat Garcia when he runs again in 11/2020, but only if they heavily turn out. They will also try to get back the NJ 2nd , but that district, with an R+1 Cook PVI (Partisan Voting Index) is no “cakewalk.” Republicans, making Pelosi and AOC (Bronx NY Cong. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez) their “bogeywomen,” will aim to defeat “Blue” Congressmembers in Trump- voting districts. These include Oklahoma City’s Kendra Horn and Charleston S. Carolina’s Joe Cunningham. Other Democrats in marginal districts, including IL’s Lauren Underwood and VA’s Abigail Spanberger, will have tough races. Orange County CA’s Gil Cisneros in the La Habra/Fullerton area will face a very stiff challenge.
House Democrats are aiming to take several districts in TX where GOPers have called it quits to add to and/or keep their majority margin. Another open seat that “Team Blue” is aiming to flip because they see it as a competitive race will take place in Indiana’s 5th Congressional District (CD). In the IN 5th, influential 4th- term GOP Congresswoman Susan Brooks, who managed to balance the MAGA Trump crowd and country-club GOPers, decided to retire. In the 11/2020 contest, Democrat Christina Hale will be facing Republican Victoria Spartz. Let’s focus on this race.
The Hoosier 5th , located in the center of the state, takes in all of Madison and Hamilton Counties and all or part of seven other counties. Hamilton County has over 40% of this CD’s population (heraldbulletin.com, 5/23/20, Cohen & Cook 2020 Political Almanac). The 5th CD includes Indianapolis’ north side and its eastern and northern suburbs. The cities of Carmel, Anderson, Noblesville, and Fishers, are in the 5th. The Roche Diagnostics medical-services company has completed the first phase of its $300 million expansion of its 159-acre Fishers campus. Hamilton has IN’s highest median household income, and is the nation’s 35th richest county. The 5th CD is 81.8 % white (Cohen & Cook 2020).
Politically, the Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) gives the IN 5th an R+9 score (Cohen & Cook 2020). Hamilton County is the most GOP of the large counties in IN and one of the “Reddest” in the nation. It voted for Romney in 2012 by 34 points, but gave Donald a 20% margin in 2016, a common trend in high-income areas nationwide. Grant and Tipton Counties are GOP-leaners . The upscale northern slice of Indianapolis’ Marion County, the second largest part of the 5th, is Democratic-leaning. Madison County, with the manufacturing city of Anderson, is politically mixed. The reduced support for Donald in Hamilton County trimmed the GOP presidential vote in the 5th CD from 58% in 2012 to a mere 53% in 2016, ranking as the lowest of the state’s seven Republican-held districts (Cohen & Cook 2020). In 2018, even though Dem. Senator Joe Donnelly lost re-election by 6 points, he narrowly carried the 5th by a .5 margin (National Journal, twitter.com/JMiles Coleman). In anti-Trump year 2018, some Hamilton County Democrats won in precincts where they had previously barely been a presence (Cohen & Cook 2020). Even before Cong. Brooks’ retirement announcement, national Democrats saw her seat as winnable. The Hoosier 5th is a highly educated suburban district, the type Democrats often carried in 2018 that helped them recapture the House. While Trump appeals to non-college working class whites, his crude offensive racism and anti-immigration talk repels many classic country-club GOPers found in the 5th. Early in 2019, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) had put Brooks’ IN 5th on its list of 33 targeted seats. Without an incumbent running, “Team Blue” has a chance to hotly contest the Hoosier 5th . Within hours of Brooks’ retirement announcement, election analysts, including Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and Nathan Gonzales’ Inside Elections, changed the 5th’s rating from Solid Republican to Lean Republican in 2020 (indystar.com, Lange, 6/17/19).
Besides the “T” word, turnout, the “R” word, recruitment, is key to winning this race for Democrats, especially in this GOP-leaning district. On 7/11/2019, Christina Hale, former IN House of Representatives member, announced she’d be running for the open 5th seat. Kip Tew, a former Democratic Party chair, who ran Obama’s 2008 successful IN campaign, stated Dems have “an excellent shot of winning if Hale is the candidate.” Tew noted that Hale can win in marginal districts and had flipped a state GOP district. He said she knows how to raise money. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) had recruited Hale as early as 2018. Hale stated she would have run even if Brooks had not called it quits (indystar.com, Lange, 6/17/19, kos elections, 7/12/19). Hale has name recognition. She was the 2016 Lt. Governor running mate of Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg. Gregg and Hale lost that race to GOPers Eric Holcomb and Suzanne Crouch by just 6 points, while Trump was carrying “super-Red” IN by 19. Holcomb had been appointed by the IN State GOP Committee to replace Gov. Mike Pence who had been tapped as Donald’s VP (nytimes.com, 8/01/17 & 12/08/16).
Lifelong Hoosier Christina Hale received a B.S. from IN’s Purdue University. While at Purdue, Hale raised her son Owen as a single mom, balancing work and school with caring for him. She made sure her son had health insurance, even when she herself couldn’t afford it. She worked as a newspaper reporter and as an executive at non-profit Kiwanis International (ballotpedia.org, haleforcongress.com). At Kiwanis, Hale focused on community and economic development, putting politics aside to work on problems facing IN and the world (haleforcongress.com). Hale decided to run for the IN House of Representatives when she saw the needs of her community weren’t being addressed. She listened to her neighbors’ concerns and spent months knocking on doors. In 2012, she first won election to IN House District (HD) 87, beating the GOP incumbent by .2% or 80 votes. Hale served HD 87 from 2012-2016. She won re-election in 2014 by a 3% margin (ballotpedia). In 2016, she dropped her IN House re-election bid, and as was previously mentioned, lost her race for Lt. Governor. In the IN House, even as a member of a super-minority, Hale was, in four years, able to pass more than 60 bills, all of them with bipartisan support. Hale sought GOP co-sponsors, spoke of building trust, and sharing legislative credit. She “did her homework,” and stated that she worked with anyone to resolve issues, something she wants to do in Congress. She wants to compromise as she did in IN to get laws passed. She is for rebuilding the country’s crumbling infrastructure and using green energy technology to employ people (heraldbulletin.com, de la Bastide, K., 5/23/20). Hale stands for improving the lives of children, lowering healthcare costs, and pushing to protect the environment. Her top priority is more COVID-19 resources, which she understands as the daughter of a nurse (haleforcongress.com). She is pro-choice and has the endorsement of NARAL, the pro-choice America PAC and Planned Parenthood. She stands for sensible gun control and is endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety. She has several labor unions in her corner including the United Steelworkers, the Teamsters, and AFSCME (haleforcongress.com). On 6/02/2020, Hale handily won her Democratic primary.
And this is Hale’s GOP opponent, Victoria Spartz. Born and raised in Ukraine, Spartz received her B.S. and MBA from Kyiv National Economic University. She immigrated to the U.S. in 2000 and became a citizen in 2006. She received a Master of Accountancy from Purdue University, Indianapolis (hamiltoncountybusiness.com, ballotpedia.org). Spartz served as CFO (Chief Financial Officer) for the IN Attorney General’s office. Spartz owned real estate and a farming business. She was a Big 4 auditor and an adjunct faculty member at Purdue University Indianapolis’ business school (Indiana senatorepublicans.com/spartz). She was appointed by IN GOPers to the IN State Senate Seat from the 20th District, after the GOPer in that seat resigned (indystar.com, 9/07/17). She assumed office on 10/01/2017. On 6/02/2020, Spartz easily won the GOP primary to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Susan Brooks (nytimes.com/interactive/2020/06/02/us/elections/results -indiana-house-district-5-primary-election).
And here are Spartz’s legislative record and her views on key issues. In the IN State Senate, Spartz, who is strongly anti-choice, voted for a bill that GOP Gov. Holcomb signed on 4/24/2019. This legislation authorized health providers to abstain from participating in abortion procedures (votesmart.org, spartzforcongress.com/issues). Spartz’s votes gave her a 92% score from the NRA (National Rifle Association) and she was endorsed by that group. She voted in favor of the controversial “Stand Your Ground” Law. She voted for allowing firearms on school grounds. She sponsored a bill to remove state oversight of certain drains near wetlands. She voted to reduce the age at which juveniles can be sent to jail, allowing them to be incarcerated at age 12 (Vote Smart Facts Matter). She is for building a wall on the U.S./Mexico border, a Trump obsession. She wants to cut spending and balance the budget, GOP code phrases for hurting the middle class and poor. She calls healthcare costs “unsustainable.” She claims they are “destroying the middle class.” She wants to “reform,” healthcare, read gut Obamacare, by adding more competition and consumer “choice (spartzforcongress.com/issues).” She received $520,403 during her primary race from the anti-tax/hard-right Club for Growth (Wien, A. Newsletter).
Yes, Hale is pushing hard for money and we must give it to her to level the playing field. Spartz will be backed “big time” by national GOP organizations and GOP-leaning groups like Koch Industries and the Club for Growth in the general election. VP Pence, a fellow Hoosier, will, no doubt, do rallies for her. IN presently has a 7-2 GOP v. Dem House delegation. The two Democrats, Peter Visclosky and Andre Carson from the IN 1st and 7th CDs, represent the industrial urban /Gary area and the city of Indianapolis respectively (Cohen & Cook 2020). Yes, the Hoosier 5th can go “Blue,” according to many analysts, but to do that, Hale, must run a flawless campaign. To win, she must also get heavy turnout from 5th CD Democrats and moderates fed up with Demagogue Donald.