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GOP Senate primary set after Stutzman nixes court challenge

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The GOP primary field for Indiana’s open U.S. Senate seat is set after U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman opted not to challenge his rival’s candidacy in court.

The deadline to file a court challenge passed this week and Stutzman’s campaign confirmed Tuesday that it will not further challenge U.S. Rep. Todd Young’s placement on the May 3 primary ballot.

The race to fill the seat of GOP Sen. Dan Coats, who is retiring, could have national implications as Democrats seek to retake control of the Senate. That would require a net gain of four Senate seats and a Democrat winning the White House so that a Democratic vice president would break Senate ties. The Indiana Democratic nominee for Senate is former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill.

Democrats, as well as the tea party-backed Stutzman, had challenged Young’s candidacy, arguing that he hadn’t gathered the 500 required petition signatures from each of the state’s nine congressional districts. An Associated Press analysis of Young’s petitions found he was three signatures short in northwestern Indiana’s 1st Congressional District.

Earlier this month, Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said Democrats would not take Young to court.

The four-member election board deadlocked in a party-line vote last month after hearing arguments from Democrats and Stutzman, who was later criticized by the GOP establishment for appearing alongside Democrats. A majority vote was needed to remove Young from the ballot.

Republican board members said they believed Young’s campaign relied in good faith on counts of petition signatures submitted by county clerks and that shouldn’t cause voters to lose the chance to consider “serious and viable candidates.”