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Indiana’s Fifth Congressional District primary turns nasty in final days

Fifth District race heats up

FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) — A top Republican official on Thursday said the spending in one primary is “incredible” but he’s not surprised by the negative campaigning.

The Republican field for Indiana’s Fifth Congressional District — which stretches from the the border of Marion and Hamilton counties northward to the city of Marion — grew steadily over the winter as U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz signaled she would not run for another term.

Then, just days before the deadline to file, Spartz announced she would run after all.

Spartz faces a total of eight challengers, chief among them state Rep. Chuck Goodrich. Federal Election Commission campaign finance data show, in terms of expenses, the Republican primary for the district is the most expensive congressional race in the entire state this cycle.

The nine candidates have spent a combined total of nearly $6.7 million. Nearly all of that — a little more than $6.1 million — comes from the Spartz and Goodrich campaigns. FEC data show Goodrich alone has spent roughly $4.1 million, nearly double Spartz’s spending.

Spartz campaign spokesperson Dan Hazelwood said while he’s surprised by the overall level of spending, he’s not surprised his team has had to spend more than $2 million to counter Goodrich.

“She was very insistent on comparing his record versus her own,” he said. “Over and over again, we’ve been critiquing his voting record while he continues to attack her patriotism.”

Shortly after the legislative session ended, Goodrich launched attack ads targeting Spartz’s support for aid to her native Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia. Spartz’s campaign responded by attacking Goodrich’s voting record.

Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Mario Massillamany says negative ads are inevitable when someone mounts a primary challenge to an incumbent. He says the level of spending in the race is incredible but not surprising.

“When people are talking about how negative this campaign has gone, I expected it,” he said. “In a race where you’re trying to take on the incumbent, you have to go and show voters why they shouldn’t vote to keep the incumbent in office.”

Massillamany says Goodrich has to spend more money because he doesn’t have the name recognition Spartz has due to incumbency.

For all the spending, turnout in Hamilton County in early voting has been extremely low. Election officials tell News 8 turnout was less than 4% as of midday Thursday.

Early voting continues through this weekend and ends at noon Monday. Polls will be open at 6 a.m. local time Tuesday and will remain open until 6 p.m. local time. Anyone in line to vote when polls close will be allowed to cast a ballot.

Massillamany says officials with other campaigns in the race have told him they’re excited by the low turnout because that means a better chance of winning.

“If they can get to their supporters and make sure they show up, then they have a chance by getting only 15,000 to 20,000 votes,” he said.

Hazelwood says Spartz isn’t worried about the low turnout. Although Republican voters in the district have a crowded congressional race and a crowded governor’s race, the presidential primary is not contested. He says that drives people’s voting decisions more than anything.

Goodrich’s campaign shared a statement:

“The Goodrich for Congress campaign has focused on Chuck’s conservative record and tried to inform voters about Congresswoman Spartz’s voting record. She tells the district one thing, then votes the opposite in Washington, D.C.”

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