Bayh Calls Lack Of Primary To Replace Him A Good Thing On Call With Dems

Mark Murrmann/Newscom

On a conference call with county Democratic Party chairs this afternoon, Sen. Evan Bayh and Indiana Democratic Party Chair Dan Parker declared that not having a Democratic primary to find a replacement for the retiring Bayh would have its upsides, according to a source who was on the call.

Bayh opened the call by repeating the reasons for not seeking reelection he mentioned in his press conference today, the source said. But in a message tailored for his audience of local party officials, Bayh said the timing of his announcement could be a positive for Democrats. The source said that Bayh told the call that the lack of a primary would mean that the Republican party candidates would attack each other on their own, with no Democrats to get in the way. On the Democratic side of the process, according to the source, Bayh said officials would choose a strong nominee from their “deep bench.”

“He said, ‘if this goes to the state committee then we’ll have selected a candidate without a divisive primary,'” the source told me this evening.With less than a week until the deadline for potential candidates to gather the necessary signatures to get listed on the primary ballot, it’s unlikely that there could be a Democratic primary to replace Bayh even if Democrats wanted one. But, according to the source, Bayh and Parker suggested on the call that not having a public vote on who Indiana’s next Democratic nominee for Senate will be could be a positive come November.

Bayh and Parker “made a point to steer clear” of talking about specific candidates to replace Bayh as the nominee, the source said. Parker said another of the “positives” about not having a primary was that the state party has “a deep bench” of candidates to choose from if they are called on to select a nominee, the source said.

Asked about his comments on the call, Parker told me he he didn’t say a lack of a primary was a good thing. He told me he said on the call that “the process isn’t perfect but our nominee will be chosen before the Republican.”

Bayh didn’t take any questions on the call, dropping off after he made his statement. The source said Parker stayed on afterward, answering questions about the process from county chairs who are coming to grips with the seismic shift in the Indiana political landscape.

The source, who is familiar with Indiana Democratic politics, said Parker described “the days events” in a way that suggested the state party was caught unaware by Bayh’s decision.

“That was somewhat surprising because the state party and Bayh are known to be pretty close,” the source said. “To a lot of folks, [they] seemed to be one and the same in a lot of respects.”

Moving forward, the source said county officials on the call seemed “mostly satisfied” by what Bayh and Parker had to say.

“I didn’t get a sense of panic,” the source told me. “But there is a sense of ‘where do we go from here?'”