When former Eighth District Representative John Hostettler joined the race to unseat Senator Evan Bayh last week, the field of GOP candidates vying for the Democrat’s seat grew to three. But the state’s junior senator is also facing a challenge from within his own party. Yet one of Bayh’s would-be primary challengers might not even appear on the ballot.
Bloomington restaurant owner Tamyra d’Ippolito has never run for political office. In fact, her only experience is twice managing underdog campaigns for Indiana University graduate student adviser Gretchen Clearwater in primary challenges to Ninth District Democrat Baron Hill. And d’Ippolito admits she’s perhaps over-matched against Bayh’s well-established presence in the state.
“He’s comes from a political womb and I’m a mere citizen. But I’m not a multi-millionaire like Evan Bayh. But whatever I can do, I’ll do it,” she says.
The first step in her campaign to unseat Bayh is collecting the 45-hundred signatures necessary for her to appear on May’s ballot. It’s a task she says favors the wealthy and protects career politicians.
“Four-thousand five-hundred signatures, from all over Indiana, registered voters, 500 hundred from each [congressional] district. It is a full-time job. I think it is completely bogus for a candidate to have to do this to run for office,” d’Ippolito says.
D’Ippolito has until Valentine’s Day to turn in her petitions. She admits her odds of defeating Bayh are long – he’s won his past three statewide elections with more than 60 percent of the vote.
But d’Ippolito, an uninsured colon cancer survivor, says Bayh’s lack of support for current health care legislation indicates he is unwillingly to address the hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers like her who do not have health coverage. She also accuses Bayh of seldom taking strong positions on issues, especially for a Senator who has won so convincingly.
“If people are thrilled with what Evan Bayh is doing, they will vote for him again. But from talking to people, I think most people think he’s disconnected with the people from Indiana,” she says
Besides Hostettler, three other Republicans are seeking Bayh’s seat. Calls to the senator’s Washington office were unreturned Tuesday.