INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill said Friday he's joining Indiana's U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Republican Dan Coats, and plans to run a campaign that will "focus like a laser beam" on ways to increase American workers' wages.
Hill, who was defeated in 2010 by Republican Todd Young after five nonconsecutive terms in southern Indiana's hotly contested 9th Congressional District, announced his Senate plans Thursday during the Bartholomew County Democratic Party's annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Columbus.
He said Friday he'll formally announce his 2016 Senate campaign in early June and is working now on assembling a campaign staff, including consultants and pollsters. Hill is the first Democrat to announce plans for a Senate run since Coats announced last month that he won't seek re-election next year.
On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman and former Indiana Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb have announced Senate campaigns.
Hill said he had considered running for Indiana governor next year but decided that his congressional experience from five terms in the U.S. House meant "it would be a better fit" for him to seek the Senate seat Coats will vacate.
The 61-year-old said he hopes to be able to help Democrats win back a majority in the Senate in next year's election.
Hill said that while the U.S. economy "has come roaring back" since the nation's financial crisis and the Great Recession, he's deeply concerned about lagging U.S. wages and will outline proposals to boost those when he formally announces his campaign.
"Wages have fallen way behind, so I want to focus like a laser beam on what we can do to get those up," he said. "I talked to a guy last night and he said he used to make $40,000 a year and now he's making $23,000. And I hear these stories over and over again."
Next year's campaign will be Hill's second run for the U.S. Senate, following a 1990 run in which he was defeated by Coats, who had been appointed to that seat in 1989, when Sen. Dan Quayle became vice president.
Coats retired from the Senate in 1998, but was re-elected to the chamber in 2010 after Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh opted not to seek a third term.
Hill said he's not thinking about his potential Republican challenges in next year's race and will "wait and see" whether other Democrats enter the race.
In Hill's 1990 Senate campaign, he walked the length of Indiana to boost his name recognition. He said Friday that some people have suggested he do that again and said he's giving that idea "serious consideration."