INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Republican voters chose Rep. Todd Young as their U.S. Senate nominee on Tuesday, opting for his pragmatism over a tea party-backed congressman who boasted of his obstructionist stance in Washington.
Young, 43, will now face Baron Hill in November's general election, the same Democrat he ousted from Congress in 2010 when he rode a tea party wave to Washington.
The GOP primary to succeed retiring U.S. Senator Dan Coats featured increasingly biting exchanges between Young and Rep. Marlin Stutzman even though both campaigned as stalwart conservatives with similar policy platforms.
Despite the intraparty turmoil, Young said he expects Republicans to unify behind him because the race could have national implications as Democrats seek a net gain of four Senate seats to retake the majority from Republicans.
"Hoosiers are practical people and Hoosier Republicans in particular have a history off unifying," Young told the Associated Press. "They understand the importance of holding on to this seat and beating Baron Hill."
Young presented himself during the campaign as a pragmatic former U.S. Marine who is more interested in getting things done than lobbing verbal bombs. Stutzman called himself an outsider and small-town farmer. He also played up his membership in the House Freedom Caucus, a Republican faction that wanted to confront Democrats and made the GOP-controlled House so unruly that former House Speaker John Boehner resigned.
Young said voters "have clearly had enough of politicians talking a good game and not following through."
But his Democratic opponent said Young is still an ideologue and only looks pragmatic when compared to the most extreme of tea party hardliners.
"I came out of political retirement because people are fed up and tired with all the political bickering that is going on in the House," said Hill, who was known as a moderate Democrat when he was in Congress. "I want to be bipartisan."
Young's campaign nearly foundered at the start when Democrats and Stutzman complained that he had failed to collect enough voter signatures from one congressional district to qualify for the ballot. An Associated Press count found Young three signatures short. But the state election board deadlocked 4-4 along partisan lines, which allowed Young to stay on the ballot.
Both Stutzman and Young crisscrossed the state in the months leading up to the election, but the campaign was fought mostly over the airwaves through negative ads. Young dominated the TV blitz with ads accusing Stutzman of being a career politician who puts his own self-interests first. A smaller number of science fiction-themed Stutzman ads portrayed Young as a "sell out," and a robot politician who votes the way party leaders tell him.
But in the final weeks of the campaign Stutzman found himself in the difficult position after he struggled to explain more than $300,000 in travel and meal charges that were paid for with his campaign fund since 2010. That included more than $3,000 in campaign funds used to take his family to California on a trip his wife described on Facebook as a "family vacation," a review by the AP found.
The AP also reported that Stutzman paid his brother-in-law, who is also one of his business partners, nearly $170,000 to do campaign work even though he had little prior experience.
Young also had a nearly 2-to-1 edge in fundraising while racking up endorsements from groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He also received financial backing from a group with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while financing from outside conservative groups that Stutzman had counted on failed to materialize.
Young served as a Marine intelligence officer. He has an MBA from the University of Chicago and is married to the niece of former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle.