2020 Democratic Primary: Indiana 1
Indiana 1: Jim Harper
Jim Harper is a solid progressive candidate, maybe one of the better ones this cycle. He has raised over 200,000 dollars, which is significant given that no one in the race has raised over 600,000. That said, he had limited cash on hand at the end of the last filing deadline (16,600). Harper has never run before. He’s consolidated nearly all of the major progressive groups but prominent progressive Marie Newman has endorsed Reardon.
He is not completely without local/institutional support; several local officials have endorsed his campaign. The fact that no major progressives like Warren, Sanders, or Ocasio-Cortez have gotten behind Harper should be a major concern when it comes to consolidating the progressive vote.
Indiana 1’s central city, Gary, is home to 80,000 people. Citylab designated this a sparse suburban district, with the two main population centers coming from Gary and the Chicago suburbs to the northwest. The vast majority of progressives come from high density or medium density districts and none of the Squad members or Bernie Sanders endorsers are from sparse suburban districts (though Mark Pocan is from a rural-suburban district). That said, 45.9% of the district is high or medium density. It’s not hard to imagine Harper having a really good night in the very dense parts of Gary, the densest parts of the Chicago suburbs, and Michigan City.
Demographically, the district is older and majority white, though there is a sizable Latinx minority, totaling 15.8% of the population. Latinx voters tend to be younger and more liberal so if Harper can activate that group, he may pick up a few surprise points.
There is no major university in the district but IUNW is in Gary, with an undergrad population of 5,900. Pete Visclosky, the incumbent Democrat, was a more moderate member of Congress.
All this information indicates that the district is majority moderate/conservative, meaning the only chance a progressive has is consolidating the 25–35% in these districts and slipping through while the establishment picks hurt each other.
Harper has consolidated many progressive organizations, but Haake, Costello, and Farrar are also running on progressive platforms. Haake is formidable, with more funding than Harper, and has a few strong progressive endorsements. Costello has raised a little under 10,000 dollars the whole cycle but has a killer YouTube page. He’s running on a progressive platform but has no endorsements. Farrar has not filed an FEC report the entire cycle and appears to be running an internet-based campaign. There are several candidates who have either raised almost no money or don’t appear to be campaigning seriously: Castro, Daggett Sr., Hall, Mosby, Reeves, Lamb, and Sylwestrowicz.
In terms of fundraising, here’s how it breaks down:
- McDermott- 587k raised, 71k COH
- Haake: 283k, 215k COH
- Reardon: 256k, 52k COH
- Mrvan: 232k, 55k COH
- Harper 213k, 16k COH
- Borom: 60k, 17k COH
It’s a bit scary for Harper that Haake has so much cash on hand but the rest is actually good news. The establishment picks all have money and though Borom is more strapped for cash she has big endorsements from members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Jim Clyburn and Barbara Lee.
The moderates are also split in terms of endorsements. Reardon has several helpful endorsements, including 2 unions. Reardon is also a Latina and has endorsements from Latino Victory and other PACs. That 15.8% Hispanic vote in the district will almost certainly be a target for Reardon, as well as Harper. McDermott has solid endorsements, mostly from unions, which could explain his fundraising. Visclosky has endorsed Mrvan, who has no prior electoral experience but who is endorsed by AFT, USW, and the Gary Crusader.
The most interesting piece of news I could find was that McDermott is taking money from a super PAC. I doubt this has much impact on the race given that McDermott is already not the choice of progressives.
A review of pros and cons for Harper
- Open seat
- Very divided field
- No one person has a ton of money
- Only one other serious candidate competing for progressive lane
- Consolidated most progressive endorsements
- Significant density in parts of the district
- Some local support/endorsements
- Decent fundraising
- Limited COH to compete in the home stretch
- No major endorsements from national figures
- Never run before
- No union endorsements or local democratic committees
- Older district
- Only sparse suburban
- No major university
Harper has got a pretty good shot. If he were to edge Mrvan, McDermott, and Reardon as they battled it out over the establishment vote, I wouldn’t be surprised. But the math is hard. If Farrar and Costello combine for more than 5–7% of the vote, Harper has no chance. They need to completely fail and progressives need to consolidate around Harper. Another doomsday scenario for Harper: Haake surges last minute. She’s got the money to do it. Or Reardon’s endorsement from Marie Newman ends up mattering in those dense suburbs of Chicago and she unifies parts of the progressive and moderate votes, sliding through. I desperately want to call the upset because Harper is one of our better shots all cycle to win an open seat, especially given how divided the field is. But with Haake sapping some of the vote, as well as Farrar and Costello, and potentially Reardon, I see Harper being edged out.
Chance of an upset: