Indiana Sen. Dan Coats will not run in 2016, but who will?

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(March 24, 2015) - It's the announcement that set off a flurry of political speculation, after Indiana Sen. Dan Coats announced he will not run for re-election in 2016.

“This was not an easy decision," said Coats in a written statement Tuesday. "While I believe I am well-positioned to run a successful campaign for another six-year term, I have concluded that the time has come to pass this demanding job to the next generation of leaders. Until the end of my Senate term, I pledge to my constituents that I will continue to focus all of my time and energy on the major challenges that Hoosiers sent me to Washington to address."

From 1981 to 1999, Coats served in the United States Congress, first in the House of Representatives and then in the Senate. In keeping with a term-limits pledge he made to Hoosiers, Coats stepped down from his Senate seat in 1999.

In 2001, Coats was named U.S. Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany, arriving in country only three days before the tragic events of September 11, 2001. As Ambassador, Coats played a critical role in establishing robust relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and in the construction of a new United States Embassy in the heart of Berlin.

Coats returned to the Senate in 2011 and currently serves on the Finance, Select Intelligence and Joint Economic Committees. Coats is chairman of the bicameral Joint Economic Committee.

Governor Mike Pence issued the following statement upon learning that Senator Dan Coats will not seek re-election:

"With his decision to retire from the United States Senate at the end of his current term, Senator Dan Coats will bring to a close an extraordinary career in public service marked by humility, integrity, and a commitment to principled conservative leadership. Through his long career in public service, whether it be his time in uniform, his service in the U.S. House and Senate or as our Ambassador to Germany, few Hoosiers have made a greater contribution to our state or nation in public service than Senator Dan Coats.

“While we greet this news with mixed emotions, we will always be grateful for the example, life and service of Senator Dan Coats and his family. We look forward to working with the Senator during the remainder of his term, and Karen and I wish Dan and Marsha every happiness upon his retirement."

So who will run now to replace Coats in 2016?

At the top of the list is Coats' own Indiana-based chief of staff, Eric Holcomb, who will make an official announcement on Thursday.

“The field looks wide open at this point, but Holcomb is the big name right now,” said IndyStar political analyst Tom LoBianco. “If Coats had announced he was running for re-election, none of this would be happening but the instant he says no it opens the field.”

Several key players in Washington could also have interest.

“You could look at the congressional delegation,” said LoBianco. “Folks like Todd Young, Susan Brooks, Todd Rokita, Marlin Stutzman - until they say no they’re potential Republican candidates.”

Several state lawmakers are also being discussed in some circles as potential candidates, including House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, who said he had received a number of calls after the news broke on Tuesday.

“I’ll chat with friends and supporters, but (I’m) totally focused here,” said Bosma.

State. Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, also expressed interest in the seat.

For the Democrats, speculation has already swirled around former Senator Evan Bayh, who Coats replaced in 2010.

“Sitting on 10 million dollars in campaign cash, he’s sort of a perennial question mark whenever an open seat comes up,” said LoBianco. “(But) he acted fairly quick today to say he was not running.”

So what about former congressman Baron Hill? Recently Hill told FOX59 he was considering a run for either Governor or Senator in 2016.

Hill issued a statement Tuesday, expressing his interest.

“First off, I want to thank Senator Coats for all his years of service to Hoosiers. He deserves the chance to spend time with his family, and I wish him well,” said Hill.

“Since the news of Senator Coats’ announcement this morning, I have had family and friends call and urge me to consider running for the U.S. Senate. I have enjoyed my time in public service in the legislature and Congress, and have always been a fighter for Hoosiers. Now, more than ever, with wages stagnating and the tools we associate with upward mobility, like the cost of college, spiraling out of reach for too many families, I feel once again the passion to serve and to fight for our future. Therefore, I will strongly consider a bid for the U.S. Senate, and will spend the next coming days in serious discussion with my wife and my daughters, and make a decision soon.”

FOX59 also spoke with a potential dark horse candidate Tuesday, State Rep. Christina Hale, D-Indianapolis.

“It’s very flattering but yes I am considering it,” said Hale. “We have a lot of problems and I want to be part of the solution.”

Here's video of Coats' announcement Tuesday: