Six years ago, Republican Todd Young defeated former Democratic Senator Evan Bayh in one of the most crucial Senate races on the map for the 2016 cycle. Young has a much easier path to a second term in the solidly red state this time around.
Young, a former Marine and three-term congressman has spent his time in Washington climbing the GOP ranks. He was tapped to lead the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2020 cycle — a daunting map that included Republicans defending almost twice the number of seats as Democrats. And while Republicans ultimately lost their Senate majority that cycle, it ended up being a 50-50 tie, and Young's NRSC helped pull out wins in several states where Democrats were incredibly competitive, such as Maine and Iowa. Ultimately, GOP losses could have been much, much worse. Any threat to Young could have come in the form of a primary, given that he voted to certify the 2020 election results, has criticized more far-right members of the party like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green and even voted to confirm 14 of Biden Cabinet picks. Young has not gotten an official endorsement from Trump, but it doesn't matter — he's running unopposed for the nomination.
Only one Democrat has qualified for the ballot to challenge Young: Tom McDermott, the five-term mayor of Hammond, a northwestern city of about 78,000 (Indiana's eighth-largest) in the Chicago metro area along Lake Michigan and the Illinois border. He took office in 2004 at age 34. Previously, his father had held the same office for two terms as a Republican. A Navy veteran who graduated from Annapolis, McDermott does give Democrats a legitimate candidate. But in his most recent bid for higher office in 2020, McDermott failed to win the Democratic nomination in the open Indiana 1st District seat after Peter Visclosky retired. McDermott finished second behind eventual winner Frank Mrvan by just over 4,000 votes. Back in 2010, McDermott had also submitted his name for consideration for the Senate nomination after Bayh surprised by withdrawing from the race after the filing date had already passed; the state executive party instead chose Rep. Brad Ellsworth to take Bayh's slot on the ballot.
McDermott's task is tall, given that Indiana hasn't elected a Democrat statewide in a decade. He's positioning himself as a moderate, hoping to appeal to independent voters and disaffected Republicans frustrated with former President Trump's continued influence over the party. But he's still a candidate with a D beside his name that — unless your last name is Bayh, and even then, it is no longer a boost — is all many voters will notice. McDermott also has a political podcast he hosts, "Left of Center," where, as Indianapolis Star columnist James Briggs wrote in February, the candidate can be a "bit of a loose cannon," including profanity-laced rants and talking about how he has smoked marijuana at Grateful Dead concerts. McDermott supports legalization, which could endear him to progressives, but he has more centrist stances on gun rights and police funding. In an earlier column, Briggs compared some of McDermott's social media habits to Trump's.
Unsurprisingly, Young is also far outpacing McDermott in fundraising. As of the end of 2021, Young had raised nearly $10.7 million throughout the cycle and had about $6.2 million in the bank. McDermott, meanwhile, has raised only $155,543 total so far and has just under $50,000 cash on hand.
A stable political climate for Republicans will only magnify Young's strengths, and all signs point to an easy victory for a second term. Solid Republican.
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