In his first public comment since U.S. Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) announced he would not seek re-election, southern Indiana Congressman Baron Hill (D-IN9) says he is considering running for the seat.
"I'm open to the idea. It doesn't mean that I'm going to do it," Hill said following a forum in Jeffersonville concerning the Ohio River Bridges project. "But being away has not allowed me to have the kind of conversations I need to have."
Hill was out of the country visiting U-S troops when Bayh made the stunning announcement on February 15. Southwest Indiana Congressman Brad Ellsworth (D-IN8) and two Chicago area officials, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott and Gary School Board member Darren Washington, have told state party officials they intend to run,
Hill says he was scheduled to talk to Bayh today, and is seeking input from several people.
"Let me have those conversations first and then we'll see where this goes," Hill said.
Where it's going is to 32 Indiana Democratic party bosses. The State Central Committee will choose the party's nominee rather than Democratic voters. And the Hoosier Democrat voters we spoke to, aren't happy about it.
"How can you take and say it's the Democratic Party when they take and doing something undemocratic?" said Melvin Alexander.
"We're supposed to be a free country and be able to vote for who we want and they're taking it out of our hands," added Leontine Hackworth.
The voters expressed concerns that the party organization would be more concerned about a candidate's electability than reflecting the priorities of Hoosier voters.
"They've got favorites," said Democrat Dana Cousins, but "the public wants the right person in."
Evan Bayh's timing might have been by design. He reportedly told a conference call with the county party chairs that by having the state central commitee choose the nominee, Democrats can avoid a divisive primary.
Even 9th District supporters of Baron Hill find that scenario decidely "undemocratic."
"I like Baron Hill," said Vicki Alexander, "but I would rather be able to vote for him in the primary if that's who I want."
Does the lack of a primary vote make it less likely to vote for a Democrat this fall?
"No," said Edna Kring, "I'm a Democrat. Period."
Loyalty from fellow Democrats is only half the battle this fall in what is setting up to be a difficult mid-term election for Democrats.
Mike Jones, one of the 32 people on the state central committee, says if there was a legal way to have a primary vote, he would prefer that.
Jones, of Switzerland County, is the chair for the 9th congressional district, that Baron Hill represents.
"I'm waiting to see what Baron will do," Jones said, "that's who I would support."
If not Hill, Jones says he has spoken to U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth.
"He would be a great candidate," Jones said.
Meanwhile, Hill was also asked about running for Senate in the future if does not run in 2010.
"You never say never in politics," Hill said, "but I can't answer that question directly. Perhaps that will be the case," finally adding, "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it."