Indiana Democrats are scrambling after the sudden and unexpected announcement by U.S. Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) that he will not seek a third term this fall. Bayh gave potential Democratic candidates less than 24 hours notice to collect the 4500 signatures to qualify for the Senate primary.
Republicans had targeted the seat as a possibility, and now are salivating at GOP prospects in a year that has already seen Scott Brown's upset win in Massachusetts and the retirements of Democratic Senators Byron Dorgan (D-SD) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT).
Evan Bayh had been a rising star for Democrats, on Barack Obama's short list for the vice-presidency and the face of the Democratic Party in Indiana.
"But I do not love Congress," Bayh said at an Indianapolis news conference Monday afternoon. "I will not, therefore, be a candidate for reelection to the United States Senate this November."
Evan Bayh abandons a $13 million campaign war chest and polls that - despite Democrats troubles elsewhere - still made a third term likely.
The moderate, former two-term Indiana governor says in congress now, the people's business is not getting done.
"There's much too much partisanship and not enough progress, too much narrow ideology and not enough problem solving."
A stunned Floyd County Democratic Chairman John Wilcox watched the statement from his home.
"It bothers me that someone would say I'm leaving because of the partisanship and problems in Congress rather than stay there and help do something about it," Wilcox said.
"He said earlier that it's something that he had contemplated for a period of time. I wish that he had done this sooner," Wilcox added.
The filing deadline is Friday. And any candidate must gather at least 500 signatures from each of Indiana's nine congressional districts.
"As it turns out they are due into the county clerk tomorrow at noon," Wilcox said.
Democrats who are being mentioned as possible candidates include four Congressmen:
Baron Hill of Southern Indiana is rumored to have his eye on a run for governor.
Southwestern Indiana's Brad Ellsworth acknowledges today he is considering running for Bayh's seat.
At 35 years old, Andre Carson is the youngest Democrat in Congress,
Joe Donnelly is a two term Congressman from Northern Indiana.
Other possibilities floated today are:
Evansville mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel,
Former Secretary of State Joe Hogsett
Former Governor Joe Kernan
and former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson - now an Eli Lilly executive.
Unless a candidate is able to collect 4500 signatures and get them certified by noon tomorrow, the Democrat's nominee this fall will not be chosen by voters, but by a 32 member Democrat party committee.
As for the Republicans, former U.S. Senator Dan Coats and former Congressman John Hostettler are the frontrunners in a race that has gone from likely Democrat to a toss-up in the blink of Evan Bayh's eyes.