Indiana’s eighth Congressional district is yet another Republican district that a Democrat has managed to hold for two cycles. In the fall of 2010, Republican nominee Larry Bucshon intends to bring it back into conservative hands.
“I’ve never run for, and never held, political office. I’m a political newcomer,” said Bucshon, who is a full-time cardiologist. “I have four children, and I’m concerned about the direction our country is taking. I’m running because I believe we truly need a new direction.”
Bucshon will go head-to-head with Democrat Trent Van Haaften, a state politician, state prosecutor and longtime Obama supporter. Van Haaften is an opponent of Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels’ property tax cap plan, and has a penchant for taking gifts from lobbyists – especially those on the wrong side of the Federal Election Commission’s push to regulate the internet.
Neither Bucshon nor Van Haaften has outstanding name recognition, but shortly after the May 4 primary, Bucshon led Van Haaften 31-19 in a Riggs Research Services Political poll. That’s good news going into the long summer campaign months.
“He’s a small business owner, and one of the candidates who we have been happy to recruit,” said John Randall, at the National Republican Campaign Committee. “He’s a first time candidate, the concerned American, who has seen the danger, the debt, and said, ‘I want to be part of that, I want to solve this now.’”
Randall points to Van Haaften’s “baggage,” namely, his attendance at Obama’s 2008 inaugural ball, and his pro-tax agenda.
“In a tough district and bad political environment, these liabilities could easily turn into deal-breakers,” writes Charlie Cook, a political analyst, at the Cook Political Report.
Buschon is a Young Guns “contender,” which means he’s holding his own in terms of fundraising, having brought in nearly $300,000 since the start of his campaign. About $200,000 of that was spent on the primary, but it’s still a good matchup to Van Haaften’s reported $165,000. That fundraising is only expected to get better now that the May 4 primary is out of the way.
“There’s a lot of interest in my campaign, and from a fundraising standpoint, I think we’re going to be very successful,” said Bucshon. He intends to highlight the liberal voting record Van Haaften’s accumulated in the House, and says that after the summer is over, there will be a clear choice between the two candidates. He also says that it might get a little ugly.
“My hope is that it would be a straightforward, issue-based campaign,” said Bucshon. “But I do believe that because of what’s at stake on a national level may very well turn into a aggressive, negative campaign.”
Van Haaften’s nomination to the Democratic ticket was curious. Indiana’s eighth congressional district was held by Rep. Brad Ellsworth, before Ellsworth announced that he was resigning to run for Senate. But the Congressman didn’t announce that he was running for Senate until February. Because of complications with filing deadlines, that meant the Van Haaften was selected by committee, instead of by a primary election.
“It’s kind of interesting that [Van Haaften] got picked with the local party power,” said Randall. “This race is at the top of the ticket.”