INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Republican Victoria Spartz has won a hotly contested congressional district in central Indiana, extending the GOP’s decades-long hold on a seat that was a top target of Democrats.
Spartz defeated Democrat Christina Hale after a campaign largely fought in the northern Indianapolis suburbs amid a national trend of suburban women moving away from Republicans under President Donald Trump.
The Associated Press called the race for Spartz on Wednesday after a second day of counting of mail ballots, including tens of thousands in Hamilton and Marion counties.
Spartz will replace Republican Rep. Susan Brooks, who didn’t seek reelection this year.
At least $15 million was sunk into the race, with national party organizations and dark-money groups spending heavily on largely negative advertising.
“This has been a long, tough campaign and I look forward (to) uniting Hoosiers around real solutions and serving every resident of Indiana’s 5th District,” Spartz said in a statement.
The Spartz victory completed a Republican sweep of Indiana’s top-tier races, including statewide wins for President Donald Trump, Gov. Eric Holcomb and state attorney general candidate Todd Rokita.
Democrats made the congressional seat a top priority and had hoped a strong run by Hale would help them unseat some Republican state representatives in the northern Indianapolis suburbs, including GOP House Speaker Todd Huston. But Republicans prevailed in all those races.
Hale conceded the election to Spartz, saying in a statement that it was “a historically close race."
“For more than a year, we spoke about protecting and expanding every Hoosiers’ right to affordable health care and promoting bipartisanship and civility in our politics," Hale said.
Wednesday began with about 28,500 uncounted mail-in ballots in Hamilton County that were received by Tuesday’s noon deadline but weren’t tallied that day, said Beth Sheller, elections administrator in the county just north of Indianapolis.
The district covers roughly the northern third of Indianapolis, which also received a record number of mail-in ballots. Marion County election workers faced some 90,000 mail ballots to count Wednesday, although it wasn’t clear how many of those were from the congressional district.
Spartz, 42, a state senator from Noblesville who immigrated from Ukraine, won the Republican primary after flooding TV screens and mailboxes with ads fueled largely by some $1.2 million she loaned to her campaign. That enabled her to build name identification after three years in the state Senate.
Spartz won a crowded Republican primary race that largely turned into a contest of loyalty to Trump. But she afterward shifted away from talking about Trump during the general election campaign.
The congressional race became a partisan battleground as cracks in the Republican dominance have appeared in the past couple years in the 5th District, which stretches from the north side of Indianapolis north into rural areas and the smaller cities of Anderson and Marion. A Democrat last represented the Hamilton County area in Congress more than five decades ago and it has long been one of the state’s strongest sources of Republican votes.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly won in the district even as he lost statewide in 2018 to Republican Mike Braun and a handful of Democrats won city positions in the northern Indianapolis suburbs for the first time during 2019 municipal elections.
Indianapolis voters backed Hale by a wide margin, according to unofficial tallies collected by the AP. Spartz, however, won in Hamilton County and collected 2-to-1 vote totals over Hale in the district’s rural northern counties.
Spartz campaigned as more stridently conservative than Brooks, who built a reputation as a moderate Republican in comfortably winning four elections.
Hale, 49, is a former state representative from Indianapolis who was the 2016 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. Hale leaned heavily during the campaign on her personal story of working as a waitress and struggling with daycare for her son as a single mom while earning a college degree.