Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Indiana State Representative Christina Hale addresses the crowd as thousands of opponents of Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, gathered on the lawn of the Indiana State House to rally against that legislation Saturday.

ANDERSON – Christina Hale has joined the Democratic Party contest for the nomination in the 5th Congressional District.

Hale, who ran for lieutenant governor with gubernatorial candidate John Gregg in 2016, announced she is seeking the party’s nomination for the 5th District seat that includes all of Madison County.

She joins the 2018 candidate, Dee Thornton, in seeking the nomination.

Incumbent Republican Susan Brooks recently announced that she is not seeking reelection in 2020.

Thornton lost to Brooks in the 2018 general election receiving 43% of the vote.

An Indianapolis resident, Hale served two terms in the Indiana House winning elections in 2012 and 2014 and withdrawing in 2016 when she accepted the position on the state ticket.

“I heard she was thinking about running,” Ludy Watkins, chairman of the Madison County Democratic Party, said Thursday. “She would be a strong candidate.

“She is really concerned about the opioids problem," Watkins said, adding "I believe it is a winnable seat with the right candidate."

The last Democrat to win in the district was Jim Jontz in 1986.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee believes the district, considered one of the strongest Republican in the nation, is now leaning more Democrat.

Brian Howey, editor of Howey Politics Indiana, said the Democratic committee believes it is becoming more of a “purple” district.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said. “Indianapolis and Hamilton County remain a bright blue and areas around Anderson are a crimson red.

“It will be a tough district for a Democrat to carry,” Howey said, “with Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the ballot along with Gov. (Eric) Holcomb with a 61% approval rating.”

Howey said with Hale and Thornton already in the race it might keep some other candidates out of the primary.

“Whoever wins the Republican Party nomination will have been tested in the primary and well-funded,” he said.

Howey said Hale would be favored to win the Democratic Party nomination in the primary.

“People want their representatives to not only understand but to feel the challenges they face,” Hale said in announcing her candidacy. “I know these challenges personally. I know the price of milk and how hard it can be to find quality day care.

“I’ve been a single mom scrapping to balance work and school, and then repay my student loans and buy my first house,” she said. “Whether it was doing what’s best for my family or trying to get ahead in the working world, I’ve had to work for it.”

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

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.