Indiana Election 2011 | Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations

Ellsworth Announces for Bayh’s Seat, GOP Leaders Unimpressed

8th District Congressman Brad Ellsworth announced in an e-mail Friday that he plans to run for the U-S Senate seat soon to be vacated by Evan Bayh.

Brad Ellsworth (D-8th)

Photo: Daniel Robison

8th District congressman Brad Ellsworth says he'll run for Evan Bayh's U.S. Senate seat.

8th District Congressman Brad Ellsworth made it official Friday by announcing in an e-mail that he plans to run for the U-S Senate seat soon to be vacated by Evan Bayh.  One 8th District leader says he thinks the congressman gives Democrats a renewed chance of keeping the seat, but Republican strategists say their tactics won’t change much.

The e-mail, sent by Brad Ellsworth’s campaign Friday, cites the need for a return to civility in Washington — a parallel to Evan Bayh’s Monday announcement he’d retire from Congress in part because of the increasing partisan rancor there.  Putnam County Democratic Chairman Dave Bohmer, who’s hosted several fundraisers for Ellsworth’s campaigns in Indiana’s 8th District, says the former lawman is a sensible choice.

“First, Brad’s a centrist, he sort of fits the kind of mold of a Democrat who can win statewide,” Bohmer said. “He’s a member of the Blue Dogs — as is Baron Hill, as is Joe Donnelly.  Brad probably has had a little more experience at running for office, given that he was a two-term Sheriff of Vanderburgh County before he ran for Congress.  And believe me, having been involved in a few campaigns in the district, that does make a difference.”

But Indiana Republican Party spokesman Trevor Foughty said the race still shapes up the same way for his side as it did when Bayh was the presumptive nominee.

“Really, that doesn’t change the game plan that much from running against Evan Bayh,” Foughty said. “They all speak a conservative rhetoric when they’re back home but then they go out to Washington and cast votes for these liberal policies that  Hoosiers have rejected.  So it looks like we may just be changing the name, but the playbook’s going to stay the same”

As expected, Mount Vernon State Representative Trent Van Haaften has filed his candidacy to run for Ellsworth’s House seat.  State Democratic leaders cannot officially announce Ellsworth as the party’s choice until after the May 4 primary due to a quirk in Indiana law.