ANDERSON – Two Democrats seeking the party’s nomination in the 5th Congressional District are expressing disappointment with an action announced by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

This past week, DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos announced that Christina Hale is a first-round candidate in the party’s Red to Blue Program.

Dee Thornton defeated four opponents in the 2018 primary election and went on to lose to incumbent Republican Susan Brooks in the 5th District.

Thornton received 43% of the vote in 2018 in a campaign that received no financial help from the national party organization.

Brooks announced last year that she would not seek re-election.

Currently there are four candidates seeking the Democratic Party nomination with Jennifer Christie and Andy Jacobs joining Thornton and Hale in the race.

“I am deeply disappointed that the DCCC has decided to play favorites and back a candidate before voters have been given the opportunity to make their voices heard in the primary,” Thornton said in a press release. “The DCCC’s decision to choose a specific candidate before the voters have their say appears to be motivated by an age-old Washington tradition: money.”

Thornton said it’s important for the 5th Congressional District race to receive national attention, and that Indiana voters don’t need a money-laden national machine to tell them how to vote.

Christie said in a statement to The Herald Bulletin said she believes the people of the district – not outside interests in Washington – should decide how they are represented in Congress.

“I believe that it is therefore the people who will ultimately decide the election,” she said. “Outside interests in Washington like the DCCC have never prioritized candidates who have embraced and fought for progressive issues and values.

“Climate change, Medicare for all, education for all, fair taxes and wages and common sense gun reform are all centerpieces of our campaign,” Christie said.

Christie said her campaign will not accept donations from political action committees, fossil fuel companies or “other dark money.”

Two years ago, Thornton won the endorsement of the Marion County Democrats and part of that agreement was that other candidates would drop out of the primary election.

Among the candidates that dropped out in 2018 was Christie.

Hale is the only one of the four Democrats seeking the nomination to have won an elective office. She was elected in 2012 and 2014 to the Indiana House and in 2016 ran for Lieutenant Governor on the ticket with John Gregg.

In announcing Hale’s inclusion in the Red to Blue Program, the DCCC said she earned the spot by surpassing aggressive goals for grassroots engagement, local support, campaign organization and fundraising.

“A lifelong Hoosier, Christina Hale exemplifies the sacrifice, hustle and drive needed to deliver on behalf of Indiana families,” Bustos said.

The Federal Election Commission website shows that through Dec. 31, 2019, the Hale campaign had raised $595,421.

The campaign has spent $176,682 and has cash on hand of $418,739. Hale’s campaign has received $5,000 donations from the United Food and Commercial Union political action committee; $5,000 from Ameripac; and $5,000 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers political action committee.

It has received $2,800 from former U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly and $2,000 from former candidate Baron Hill.

Thornton’s campaign through Sept. 30 raised $38,074 and has spent $24,850. It has a cash balance of $50,577.

Christie’s campaign through Sept. 30 raised $8,841 and has spent $5,780. It has a cash balance of $5,254.

Jacobs has not filed a campaign finance report.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.