INDIANAPOLIS – Two Republican powerbrokers are ignoring their Mitch Daniels-era political connections to one Senate candidate and instead urging Rep. Todd Young to run for the open seat.
Al Hubbard and Jim Kittle Jr. – both former chairs of the Indiana Republican Party – signed a joint letter that Young’s congressional campaign sent to supporters on Sunday afternoon.
They urged other Republicans “to exercise patience in making a decision” regarding support for two other candidates in the race – former GOP chairman Eric Holcomb and U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd District.
Their move to publicly support Young could be a grim sign for Holcomb, who has never held elected office and served most of his career as a political operative. Holcomb ran Daniels’ second campaign for governor and then served as a top advisor in the governor’s office.
Holcomb was expected to tap into the Daniels network for much of his financial and political support.
But Hubbard, a former George W. Bush economic adviser and long-time Daniels friend, and Kittle, who served as the former governor’s finance chairman, said they think Young is a better choice.
In the email blast – paid for by the Friends of Todd Young committee – Hubbard and Kittle say Young “would be the best candidate because he’s never shied away from making tough choices during his time in office.”
“Put simply: We believe Todd Young is a proven conservative leader and would be the strongest candidate and office holder Republicans could field in 2016,” the pair wrote.
But Holcomb’s campaign spokesman said that while “others engage in lengthy contemplation about whether to wage a campaign, Eric’s list of supporters grows every day.”
“Asking people to ‘exercise patience’ is another way of acknowledging that Eric has been racking up endorsements and support in every corner of the state,” spokesman Pete Seat said Sunday. “His broad statewide support is also reflected in his fundraising, which has been steady and ongoing.”
The candidates are vying to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, also a Republican.
Hubbard and Kittle said in their letter that they have “high regard” for Holcomb and Stutzman.
“It’s clear Republican primary voters will have a quality field from which to choose in next year’s election,” they wrote. “However, one potential candidate clearly stands out: Congressman Todd Young.”
Young is expected to announce whether he’ll run this summer. His campaign spokesman, Trevor Foughty, said Sunday that the “congressman is narrowing in on a decision.”
“As we go through this process,” he said, “the growing support for a potential Senate campaign – from grassroots volunteers to party stalwarts like Jim Kittle and Al Hubbard – makes it clear that we would have a lot of momentum on our side if he opts to run.”
If Young ran and nabbed the nomination, he could face Democrat Baron Hill, whom he ousted from the state’s 9th congressional district seat. Hill announced earlier this month that he would seek the Democratic nomination in the race.
Coats announced in March that he would not seek another term in the Senate.
Just a few days later, Holcomb – who had been working as Coats’ state director – announced he would seek the GOP nomination. Holcomb’s announcement was packed with former Daniels’ staffers and supporters.
In what was left of the first quarter fundraising period, which ended March 31, Holcomb received $125,000 in contributions for the race.
Stutzman formalized his candidacy earlier this month and has not yet had to report any fundraising for the Senate race. But he reported nearly $424,000 in cash in his congressional campaign committee as of March 31. That included about $123,000 in contributions during the first quarter of the year.
Young had $1.1 million in his campaign report as of March 31, including $410,000 he raised during the first quarter of the year.
Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.