Judging off of historical trends, approval ratings, and how Americans view the direction of the country as of today, it’s looking more and more likely that Republicans will have a very good midterm during this 2022 cycle. Since so many are expecting a red wave to crash down this November, Republicans are looking to expand the number of seats that they will target this year; particularly more seats that have traditionally been more Democratic leaning. One example that I will be analyzing today is Indiana’s 1st congressional district. We here at Elections Daily currently rate this district as Leans Democratic.
Indiana’s 1st congressional district (IN-01) has been held by Democrats for almost an entire century. The last time a Republican held this district was when Republican incumbent Harry Rowbottom won reelection in 1928. He then proceeded to lose reelection in 1930 and it has been with Democrats ever since. The district, however, has been trending more Republican over the years, albeit not by much. Barack Obama won the district by almost 24 points in 2012, Hillary Clinton won it by almost 13 points in 2016, and Joe Biden won it by almost nine points in 2020. While a district that a Democratic presidential nominee won by nine may seem out of reach, it might be ripe picking for Republicans depending on how big of a red wave 2022 produces.
The incumbent congressman for IN-01 is Frank Mrvan. Mrvan was born and raised in the largest city in the district, Hammond. He was first elected in 2020 and had an impressive performance during his campaign, winning the district by over 16 points. Despite this overperformance, a crowd of Republican challengers eager to take him on in November have surfaced and are all competing to be the Republican nominee. The primary election will be held on May 3rd.
The Republican field in IN-01 has attracted a total of seven candidates looking for the opportunity to be the first elected Republican in this district since 1930. However, out of these seven candidates, it appears that only two of them are running serious campaigns that actually have chances of winning in this primary. As of the writing of this article, every Republican candidate has failed to file their quarterly campaign finance reports on time except for two: Jennifer-Ruth Green and Blair Milo.
Green has spent her career in the Air Force and has made her military service a centerpiece for her campaign. She currently serves as the Chief Information Officer/Commander of the 122nd Communications Flight in the Indiana National Guard. She also holds the distinction of being the first African-American woman to ever serve in this position in the history of the Fighter Wing. She boasts many powerful endorsements that include members of Congress from Indiana, members of the Indiana state legislature, the state Attorney General Todd Rokita, the Indiana Right to Life, and Susan B. Anthony List. Her campaign has raised a total of $304,000 but has spent most of that money already. She entered the month of April with $98,000 in cash on hand.
The only other candidate who has been serious enough to file their fundraising report on time is Blair Milo. She has also made military service a key part of her campaign. She served as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy and has 13 years of service under her belt. She also has elected political experience as well, having served as Mayor of LaPorte, Indiana. She boasts on her website that she was the youngest woman to ever win this seat and that she managed to flip the mayoral seat from blue to red during her first run in 2011. Democrats chose not to contest the seat in 2015. She also has served under Governor Eric Holcomb’s administration as the first ever Secretary of Career Connections and Talent. Her campaign has raised a total of $208,000 but she did enter April with more COH than her opponents. She finished out Q1 with just under $111,000. She boasts the endorsements of over a dozen Indiana mayors.
This primary for the GOP nomination has been relatively tame for the most part. No candidate had engaged in any attacks for months while in the race against their fellow Republicans. However, that recently changed once Jennifer-Ruth Green recently began airing an attack ad calling primary rival Blair Milo a “Never Trump liberal.” The first half of the ad goes after Milo by claiming she struggled on whether to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in 2016 and then attacked her for being critical of Trump’s immigration policy. The second part of the ad turns into a positive spot highlighting Green’s military service. Other than this one negative ad, both the Green and Milo campaigns have each aired positive ads highlighting both of their military records. The Milo campaign has not responded with an attack ad of their own so far.
Republicans have recruited a strong field of candidates and it looks like their primary will come down to either Jennifer Ruth-Green or Blair Milo (barring a major upset from one of the other five candidates). Republicans flipped many of their 2020 congressional wins due to the fact that they recruited diverse candidates, particularly women, and also discovered that candidates with military experience played very well in competitive seats. Frank Mrvan, as an incumbent, has a total of $422,000 in COH. While this number does not seem particularly impressive for an incumbent, it is still much more than either of the likely Republican nominees currently have.
Whoever wins the nomination will have to overcome the obstacle of being behind in fundraising while also being capable of appealing to enough moderates and disaffected Democrats in order to win this district that Joe Biden won by almost nine points. However, with the trend of this district, the underwater approval ratings of President Biden, and the ever growing anti-Democratic Party sentiment, this seat could prove to be one of the upsets of the 2022 cycle.