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Briggs’ mailbag: Indiana keeps voting for men over women

In World
May 14, 2024

Welcome to the post-primary mailbag!

As a quick reminder, you can send me questions about absolutely anything and I’ll answer as many as I can (hopefully) without turning this into an unreadable, 2,000-word mess. You can email me at james.briggs@indystar.com or use the Google form at the bottom of the online article page.

Here we go.

Eric Bedel: Do you think the Indiana Republican Party will ever nominate a woman for Senate or governor? The party seems comfortable in placing a woman in the lieutenant governor position but that appears to be the glass ceiling.

The short answer is yes — eventually, a woman will break through and win one of the top statewide elected positions. The longer answer is that it’s impossible to predict when that might happen.

It should have happened in 2016 when Mike Pence ended his reelection bid to join Donald Trump’s ticket. Susan Brooks, a then-congresswoman and former U.S. attorney, was objectively the best Republican candidate available to replace Pence. But the 22-person Republican central committee instead chose Eric Holcomb, who had served as Pence’s lieutenant governor for approximately 10 minutes and had never before won an election.

That decision worked out. Holcomb went on to become a popular and successful two-term governor who skillfully led Indiana through a once-in-100-years health crisis. That outcome, though, doesn’t change the fact that Holcomb’s improbable ascent to governor came at the expense of a more qualified woman.

You can come up with a lot of reasons why Holcomb won. Holcomb was a former state party chairman with deep connections (and trust) among the state’s Republicans. At the same time, it seems likely that Holcomb benefited in those relationships at least to some extent from being a man.

To be fair, this is not just a problem on the Republican side. Chris Sikich, a former reporter and editor for IndyStar, did a deep dive into this issue in 2020 and found a long pattern of women and candidates of color being shoved out of the way by both parties when prominent offices were at stake. Just like governor and U.S. senator, the Indianapolis mayor’s office has only been held by white men.

Indiana republican gubernatorial candidate Suzanne Crouch gives remarks conceding in the republican governor nomination to Mike Braun, May 7, 2024, at The Industry in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Indiana republican gubernatorial candidate Suzanne Crouch gives remarks conceding in the republican governor nomination to Mike Braun, May 7, 2024, at The Industry in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The most recent gubernatorial primary is not as clear cut as Holcomb’s 2016 nomination. Sen. Mike Braun had several clear advantages over Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch besides being a man. But I do wonder whether Crouch’s campaign might have gone differently if she hadn’t been trying to beat Braun, plus overcome the added challenges of running for office as a woman in Indiana.

Crouch, for example, leaned into culture wars in ways that some people who know her considered to be out of character. That might just be the cost of doing business as a Republican candidate in the 2020s. Or, there might have been something else going on.

It’s hard to conclusively diagnose the effects of sexism on Indiana politics, but the trends show it’s obviously a factor.

Bob Mountel: You imply that the heliport is better for parking (for a prospective Major League Soccer stadium). What about traffic? The Diamond Chain site could use the same parking as the Colts and Indians and would not require extra dollars spent on roads. You’re carrying the mayor’s water and not checking your facts again.

Traffic is the least of the concerns I would have about Indianapolis getting an MLS team. The city handles large sporting events all the time. One more team playing games on Wednesdays and Saturdays isn’t going to be ruinous.

As for parking, the proposed Eleven Park project does include new structures, which also would serve elements other than Indy Eleven. New parking adds to the cost of the project.

I suppose I am carrying Mayor Joe Hogsett water on this. It’s not out of any particular sense of loyalty to the mayor. I happen to think he’s right about two things: Moving on from Eleven Park is the right decision, and, if the city wants an MLS team, it’s best to link up with a new prospective ownership group that hasn’t already been rejected by the league.

Steve Pollom: I would love to hear your take on the love Indiana and others have for Trump. Why???

People smarter than I am have offered a wide range of explanations for Trump’s popularity, so I’m going to punt on that question.

It’s true that Trump is popular in Indiana, but it’s also true that Nikki Haley won 22% of the vote in last week’s primary despite having dropped out of the presidential race in March. That’s a sign of weakness for Trump. More broadly, Trump is unpopular nationally, with nearly 54% of Americans viewing him unfavorably, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Trump has gutted the Republican Party of principled, talented office-holders and cultivated a crop of wacko MAGA cosplayers, such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who is currently on a book tour explaining why she killed her dog and lied about meeting Kim Jong Un.

That’s true in Indiana, too, where the upcoming Republican convention could feature some MAGA-on-MAGA sadism. Right-wing pastor Micah Beckwith is trying to win the lieutenant governor nomination over Braun’s choice, state Rep. Julie McGuire. If Beckwith is successful, he’d likely draw negative attention to himself and votes away from Braun in November.

This is the field Trump has fertilized.

The more interesting question than Trump’s popularity is why Republicans continue to harbor a political terrorist who is tearing them apart.

Thank you for reading! Send your questions about politics or advice on parenting or anything else to james.briggs@indystar.com and they might show up in a future mailbag.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: When will Indiana elect a woman to governor or senator?

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