INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two top Indiana Republicans said Thursday they were surprised U.S. Senate candidate Todd Young may have failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, and the GOP state Senate leader said if the allegation against the congressman is true it may be "one of the most colossal mistakes I've ever seen."
"I suspect that congressman Young thought he had all the signatures wrapped up weeks ago," said Senate President Pro Tem David Long. "All I can say is I'm amazed that he's in that situation."
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said that it is the job of political candidates to "be sure you beat the hurdle."
If Young is not allowed on the ballot, U.S. Rep Marlin Stutzman's would be the only GOP candidate left in the field — a possibility that has many Democrats gleeful. They prefer to face Stutzman, who they view as extremely conservative with an outspoken nature that could turn off general election voters. They compared him to former GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who made incendiary comments about abortion and rape and lost the 2012 Senate race to Democrat Joe Donnelly.
The Indiana race could have national implications as Democrats seek a net gain of four Senate seats to retake the majority from Republicans. That would require the Democratic nominee for president to win in November and allowing the vice president to break Senate ties. Until the potential blunder by Young, Republicans were favored to retain the seat now held by retiring U.S. Sen. Dan Coats.
Young's campaign dismissed Democrats' challenge as a "political stunt." But some Republican leaders were not amused.
"If it's true it's one of the most colossal mistakes I've ever seen," said Long, who added that he had not received details from the Secretary of State's office.
State law requires Senate candidates to submit the signatures of 500 registered voters from each of Indiana's nine congressional districts to qualify for the May primary ballot. The state Election Division reported Young squeaked by with 501 signatures in northwestern Indiana's 1st Congressional District.
Democrats say Young is three signatures shy. And on Wednesday they filed a formal complaint, challenging Young's placement on the May primary ballot. A tally by The Associated Press also found Young three signatures short from the 1st Congressional District.
Young's fate will be decided by the state's bipartisan, four-member Election Commission, which will hold a hearing on the challenge on Feb. 19. Young will remain on the ballot unless three members vote to remove him, election officials say. Any decision could be challenged in court.
Young previously defeated former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, the presumed Democratic nominee for the Senate, taking away his congressional seat in 2010.
"We're confident that we have more than enough signatures in the 1st Congressional District and that Todd Young will be on the ballot in May," campaign manager Trevor Foughty said.