INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Republican Victoria Spartz has won a hotly contested congressional district in central Indiana, extending the GOP’s decades-long hold on a seat that was a top target of Democrats.
Spartz defeated Democrat Christina Hale after a campaign largely fought in the northern Indianapolis suburbs amid a national trend of suburban women moving away from Republicans under President Donald Trump.
The Associated Press called the race for Spartz on Wednesday after a second day of counting of mail ballots, including tens of thousands in Hamilton and Marion counties.
Spartz will replace Republican Rep. Susan Brooks, who didn’t seek reelection this year.
At least $15 million was sunk into the race, with national party organizations and dark-money groups spending heavily on largely negative advertising.
Wednesday began with about 28,500 uncounted mail-in ballots in Hamilton County that were received by Tuesday’s noon deadline but weren’t tallied that day, said Beth Sheller, elections administrator in the county just north of Indianapolis.
The district covers roughly the northern third of Indianapolis, which also received a record number of mail-in ballots. Marion County election workers faced some 90,000 mail ballots to count Wednesday, although it wasn’t clear how many of those were from the congressional district.
Spartz, 42, a state senator from Noblesville who immigrated from Ukraine, won the Republican primary after flooding TV screens and mailboxes with ads fueled largely by some $1.2 million she loaned to her campaign. That enabled her to build name identification after three years in the state Senate.
Spartz won a crowded Republican primary race that largely turned into a contest of loyalty to Trump. But she afterward shifted away from talking about Trump during the general election campaign.
The congressional race became a partisan battleground as cracks in the Republican dominance have appeared in the past couple years in the 5th District, which stretches from the north side of Indianapolis north into rural areas and the smaller cities of Anderson and Marion. A Democrat last represented the Hamilton County area in Congress more than five decades ago and it has long been one of the state’s strongest sources of Republican votes.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly won in the district even as he lost statewide in 2018 to Republican Mike Braun and a handful of Democrats won city positions in the northern Indianapolis suburbs for the first time during 2019 municipal elections.
Spartz campaigned as more stridently conservative than Brooks, who built a reputation as a moderate Republican in comfortably winning four elections.
Hale, 49, is a former state representative from Indianapolis who was the 2016 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. Hale leaned heavily during the campaign on her personal story of working as a waitress and struggling with daycare for her son as a single mom while earning a college degree.
Hale released the following statement Wednesday night conceding to Spartz:
“Congratulations to Victoria Spartz, our next Congresswoman from Indiana.
“Today, I would like to acknowledge the effort of everyone who supported our campaign. From our talented and hardworking staff to the hundreds of volunteers who spent hours phone-banking on our behalf, to the thousands who put up a yard sign, and everyone who contributed. I am in awe of the depth of support from my husband Chris and all of my dearest friends and family. We would not have gotten this far without you and I’ll always be thankful for your help.
“For more than a year, we spoke about protecting and expanding every Hoosiers’ right to affordable health care and promoting bipartisanship and civility in our politics. This was a historically close race, and our message clearly resonated with voters. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to talk about the issues that matter most to our community and lift up the voices of so many people in our district.
“Lastly, I want to congratulate all of the incredible candidates across the country who ran tonight – both those who won their races and those who came up short. Now is the time for all of us to come together and to do the hard work of defeating this pandemic and building a brighter future for all Americans.”