Will The Fifth District Follow America’s Suburbs Left?

Gun Rights

The district covering Carmel, Tipton, and Noblesville could mirror a national suburban shift toward the Democratic Party.

Here at the Hickory Hall Polo Club in Whitestown, polo players atop thoroughbreds thwack a ball around a 300-yard-long, 160-yard-wide stretch of carefully groomed green grass. The sun dips in the August sky. Alongside the field, families and couples and college friends and real-estate agents who have rented out box seats for clients swill rosé and nosh on trays of cheeses and meats. This is the only outdoor polo club in the entire state of Indiana, one of just 250-some clubs nationwide. Around the world, the sport has long been the province of the wealthy, white, and privileged. They don’t call it the “sport of kings” for nothing.

Survey the territory here, though, and a more nuanced scene unfolds. The grounds are not only peopled by the hoity toity, but the hoi polloi. They came in $20 a carload, passing an American flag on the gatepost at the entryway—less expensive than a drive-in movie for families. The crowd gathered is not as lily-white as you’d imagine; there are Black and brown families. There are Notre Dame and Indiana University tents where alumni sit in foldable cloth camping chairs. Elsewhere, other attendees have become slightly tipsy on PBR. Between chukkas, or periods, a single-prop plane flies over the field, dropping parachute-piloted packages of candy for battalions of children, who chase down the loot.

In Whitestown, the “sport of kings” has become the sport of suburbanites. “It was always considered a very stuffy sport,” says Hickory Hall’s owner, Greg Chandler, as he sits in a leathery-smelling tack room in a barn just off the field an hour or so before the match begins.

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“We don’t want anyone not to feel welcome at all. We’ve dressed it down. If you want to wear a hat and pretty dress, wear one. If you want to wear cutoffs and T-shirts, we don’t care.”

Chandler, whose father played the sport at Fort Benjamin Harrison back in the 1970s, bought the 30 acres here 20 years ago with the goal of democratizing the sport. He made it public, added in the candy drop, and made the matches charity events—a portion of the proceeds each night goes to a cause. Tonight, amid a national uprising opposing police brutality against people of color, the cause happens to be the IMPD Mounted Patrol. Over the last few years, average attendance has increased from a few hundred to more than a thousand on any given Friday night. Such is the attendance tonight.

The tableau, from a distance, certainly looks and feels like Trump Country. And the president did win here in Indiana’s 5th Congressional District in 2016, after all, by 11 points, trouncing Hillary Clinton 52 percent to 41 percent—by some 43,000 votes. But contents have shifted since then. Already, at least two internal polls commissioned by Democratic-affiliated groups have had former Vice President Joe Biden winning the district by 10 percentage points (in June) and 8 points (in August), meaning Trump’s support here could have eroded by as much as 21 points in just three-and-a-half years. Similarly, against the grain of expectations, spectators of all stripes, income levels, and political beliefs convene here weekly to take in what is in many other places is a very, very bougie pastime. “I’m sure there are Democrats and Republicans and Libertarians alike,” Chandler says.

Indiana's 5th district

Perhaps no other scene more neatly encapsulates the 5th District, 3,266 square miles of political real estate in the middle of Indiana, defying easy stereotypes despite being drawn up less than a decade ago, under somewhat dubious circumstances, as an uncontested layup for Republicans.

Yes, it is only August. Few here know either the Democrat or Republican vying to replace outgoing Rep. Susan Brooks, a four-term GOP moderate who held her seat for eight years but is leaving to take a break from electoral politics. However, before Labor Day, outside groups and the candidates themselves will have spent more than $4 million to further the causes of Republican State Sen. Victoria Spartz, a rifle-toting, Trump-fawning former CPA who grew up in Soviet-era Ukraine, and former state lawmaker Christina Hale, a onetime Kiwanis International executive who would be the first Cuban-American woman to represent Indiana in the U.S. Congress. In August, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee alone reserved $400,000 in television ads.

“As the money pours, the race will get a higher profile,” says Mike Rinebold, a Republican who just cut a $250 check to Spartz, as he swigs a margarita from a red plastic cup and idles by a spread of barbecued ribs. “It’s gonna be an important race.” Robert Harris, Rinebold’s friend and a Boone County Republican grandee, says the dynamic will change soon. “Spartz is going to kill her,” he says. “The average voter doesn’t pay a lot of attention until the very end.”

Maybe so, but other Republicans seem to sense trouble in this district where things are more complex than meets the eye. In just a matter of days, it won’t be planes dropping candy across the district. Instead, political action committees and special-interest groups will be carpet-bombing the 5th with political attack ads and mailers. If Republicans want to gain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, they have to defend suburban seats. Democrats, though, believe they can expand their 34-seat majority by flipping Republican seats just like this one. National Journal, the inside-the-D.C.-Beltway publication, added ballast to their hopes in July when they ranked the 5th as the “8th-most likely to flip in November,” given the district’s shifting demographics and political leanings in recent years.

Indiana’s 5th looks to be one of the most competitive congressional races in the country. But if the Republican-drawn stronghold flips from red to blue this fall, it won’t be because of Donald Trump. Or Joe Biden.

Like a polo field in the middle of Indiana, there’s more happening in Indiana’s 5th than meets the eye. Appearances can be deceiving. For years, Republicans could all but expect wins in districts like the 5th because of their inherent small-c suburban conservatism. But what happens when the Republican base is drawn to far-right candidates like Spartz, while at the same time, suburban moderates are softening their views on everything from racial issues to gun violence? Spartz and Hale are about to find out.


The 5th Congressional District as drawn in 2011 is something of a political and demographic pitch-in, to put it in Hoosier parlance, a casserole of Carmel and Zionsville’s McMansions, Anderson and Tipton’s hulking factories, and the sprawling family farms of Noblesville and Yorktown. There are Subaru-driving soccer moms from Fishers and BabyBjörn-wearing dads from Broad Ripple. From its southern tip along 38th street, near the Eagle Creek Reservoir, it ambles north all the way toward the northeastern boundary of Grant County. From west to east, it runs roughly from the polo fields in Boone County to the Nestle USA plant in Anderson. If you drove the district’s perimeter, it would take roughly six-and-a-half hours.

Some 795,000 people live here, 96.6 percent of them white, and just one percent Black and one percent Hispanic. The core of the 5th, though, is Hamilton County, where 40 percent of the district’s population resides. It is the 35th-richest county in the nation, and has the highest median income in Indiana. In both Carmel and Fishers, young and more diverse families have poured into suburban developments from Indianapolis and elsewhere across the country.

“Indiana 5 is like no other district in Indiana,” says Christine Matthews, a native Hoosier and the president of Alexandria, Virginia-based Bellwether Research, as well as a former Gov. Mitch Daniels pollster. “If you look at the college education attainment in Indiana 5, it’s like 45 percent. The average of all the other districts is 25 percent. It’s much more like suburban Denver and suburban Chicago than other districts in the state. They’re not Richard Mourdock voters [the former state treasurer and Senate candidate who lost to Joe Donnelly after saying pregnancy resulting from rape is something God intended]. They’re not even Mike Braun voters. In 2016, that was an anti-Hillary vote. You tend to see a split on abortion, more pro-choice than any other district. Split on a lot of things. But they’re economically conservative. They don’t want their taxes raised.”

In other words, the district may lean Republican, but in a more Mitch Daniels way than MAGA one. In many parts of the district, for example, yellow-and-blue “Pence Must Go Signs” popped up in front yards after the former governor’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which could have allowed business owners to refuse service to LGBTQ+ customers, inflamed the culture wars in 2015. Three short years later, in 2018, State Senate District 29, which includes Carmel, is represented by the first openly gay Indiana state lawmaker, J.D. Ford.

The district, though, was conceived as safe Republican territory. In its current form, the 5th may have been born on the dining room table and couch of a staffer for then-Rep. Todd Young in the spring of 2011. Indiana State Law, as enacted in 1969, holds that “Congressional districts shall be established by law at the first regular session of the General Assembly convening immediately following the United States decennial census.” Former Indiana Speaker of the House Brian Bosma asked the staffs of each Republican U.S. Representative to deliver their desired map for each of their own districts, according to the Young staffer, who has not previously told the story to a reporter before, and requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the map’s provenance. Using a now-defunct website called “Dave’s Redistricting”—think Sim City, but for congressional districts—the staffer drew a district for his boss in the 9th that fit into the general principles Republicans had been espousing as determinants for the redistricting: namely, that the districts be compact, fair and equitable. Then, he drew the other eight congressional districts, including the boundaries of the 5th.

In a meeting with Bosma just before the maps were released, the Young staffer learned that no other delegation member had submitted an entire congressional map of the state—only their own districts. As a result, Young’s map of the state essentially became the starting point for the congressional map of Indiana. The staffer confirmed this outline of events, and provided time-stamped maps largely backing up this, with minor changes concerning counties split into multiple districts, and some apparently made to limit the number of media markets encompassing each district.

In a February 22, 2011, email chain among Young’s inner circle obtained by Indianapolis Monthly, another Young adviser writes that “in the next week or so we need to present our ideal map to the IN State Party and various IN House/Senate members.” The aide provided a date of the meeting with Bosma, and said he was in the room when the speaker relayed the message to Young. An aide to Young downplayed the account, and through a spokesman, Bosma denied requesting maps and receiving them.

To be sure, Republican-controlled House and Senate committees approved the maps, and they passed their respective chambers along party lines. Daniels signed the districts, laid out in House Enrolled Act 1602, into law on May 10. The maps weakened Indiana Democrats, particularly then-U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly in the 2nd, and bolstered Republicans like Young in the 9th. The 5th, among the state’s most compact districts, was solid Republican soil. Until it wasn’t.

This district should be Spartz’s to lose. In 2017, the powerful Republican State Sen. Luke Kenley, a budget-committee chairman, retired from his Noblesville seat in District 20. An affable former judge, grocer, and Noblesville mayor, Kenley’s exit left a vacuum in Hamilton County politics, not to mention four years of a state senate term. Party officials held a caucus to replace him. Spartz defeated six candidates. Kenley caucused for one of her competitors. She won after six rounds of voting.

Spartz’s biography reads like a fairy tale. Born in rural Ukraine in 1978 to a government official amid a revolution, Spartz earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in international economics and a Master of Business Administration degree from Kyiv National University of Economics. She grew up in what she calls a “totalitarian socialist Republic.” At 13, her native Ukraine won independence from the Soviet Union. “It was a very transformational and challenging time,” she recalled. “I was at an interesting age because I was brainwashed in the Soviet system and then a new system comes, all these new ideas that were exciting and fresh.”

Her father, a chief engineer for the government, was a victim of fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear accident. He died of stage four cancer at 41, the same age she is now. “It was difficult for me to lose him,” Spartz told me in an interview at Hamilton County Republican Headquarters in Westfield. “It was a tough country out there. I have a younger sister and my mom, it was tough for her, too. She’s still struggling with depression and it’s really hurt her a lot. It was difficult losing your husband, and she was young, too. I had a 7-year-old sister. Some of his friends told me, ‘Victoria, you have to be an adult.’”

As state senator, Spartz frequently butted heads with her own party. She voted against Gov. Eric Holcomb’s bill to raise the smoking age to 21. She also opposed a bill put forth by the governor that would have required employers to “reasonably accommodate” pregnant employees’ needs (though, to be fair, so did most Indiana Senate Republicans, many citing fairness to small businesses as a concern). Her dogmatic approach to legislating also led to a sour relationship with Hamilton County mayors and city councillors. Spartz rankled them by gumming up their plans for the County Option Income Tax (COIT), which determines how much funding each Hamilton County city gets.

So much so, in fact, that Republican Noblesville mayors Chris Jensen, Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness, and Westfield Mayor Andy Cook requested a meeting with Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray, and explained they planned to recruit a challenger to primary Spartz. Fadness declined to comment; Cook and Jensen did not respond to IM’s requests for comment by deadline, though Spartz did not deny that they had mounted the primary challenge.

They settled on Scott Baldwin, a Noblesville native and U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm. In a press release, Jensen, along with eight city council members, and Fadness, along with six of his councillors, endorsed Spartz’s opponent. Not long after, on Spartz’s office door, a copy of the press release showed up, with the endorsers’ names highlighted. Scrawled in the margins read an ominous message: “Welcome: Unless your name is on this list, you may enter.”

Spartz denies that she composed the message, a photo of which was provided by a source who requested anonymity. “I didn’t post any statements,” she told me. “I think that was my husband. I didn’t post any statement.” Now, though, I told Spartz, you have to represent those mayors and city councillors in the U.S. House of Representatives, if you win. “I will,” she told me, “and I will do a great job.”

Victoria Spartz

Spartz at a campaign event.Photo by Tony Valainis

When I asked Kenley what the anecdote revealed about Spartz, he told me, “I think that shows she’s a fighter.” But the fighting, in this case, was with her own base. And they’re not the only voters with whom she has fought.


On a cool Sunday evening in August, a few days after polo at Hickory Hall, 17 miles east of the polo fields in the district, nine Noblesville residents gather beneath a shelter house at scenic Dillon Park. They come from neighborhoods with names like West Haven and Lakeshore Estates. Unlike many of the voters I talked with at Hickory Hall, every person knew who was running in the 5th. Seven out of nine consider themselves Republicans, and the majority either voted for President Trump, wrote in a candidate, or voted for the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson. Six of nine voted for Rep. Susan Brooks in 2012. All wear masks and socially distance themselves at adjacent picnic tables.

The group, which has numbered as many as 25, has been meeting like this since the spring of 2018. Then, a 13-year-old Noblesville West Middle School student left a science quiz, grabbed two handguns from his locker, and returned to fire at a fellow student, Ella Whistler, and a teacher, Jason Seaman. Seaman threw a toy basketball at the shooter, then wrestled him to the ground. Whistler, shot seven times, was left in critical condition. Bullets ripped through her body, damaging her nerves, fracturing her vertebrae, severing a vein, collapsing her lungs, and breaking jaw, clavicle, and rib bones. In the aftermath, a group of Republican-leaning and some Democratic voters formed Noblesville Stands Together, a working group focused on advocating for stricter firearm legislation in Indiana. For the most part, they are parents of students who were at Noblesville West during the 2018 shooting, though the group includes parents from Westfield and Carmel, too.

Of the parents here on this night, five of them had children who huddled under desks and evacuated the building the day of the shooting. The event changed them, and awoke hundreds of them, and perhaps thousands of similar voters in the otherwise sleepy Hamilton County and across the district to the dangers of gun violence and school shootings, and Indiana’s lax firearm laws. On Facebook, some 600 people followed the group’s cause. They met with Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun, Gov. Eric Holcomb, and outgoing 5th District Rep. Susan Brooks, all of whom listened carefully and soberly to their concerns and recommendations, which included improving background checks, advocating for Indiana’s Red Flag Law, and a child firearm-access prevention law, as well as closing loopholes in the state’s gun laws. All politicians except for one: their own Republican state senator, Victoria Spartz.

Part of a key proposal they pushed, documented in Senate Bill 16, was a measure that would prohibit a child found guilty of delinquency from owning a gun until they are at least 26, if the delinquent act in question was committed with a gun that would earn an adult a violent felony charge. Without the bill, the Noblesville shooter could acquire a firearm once he is released from custody. Because he was a minor, he wasn’t charged with a felony.

The National Rifle Association quietly opposed the bill. Spartz worked behind the scenes to gut the proposal, winning the NRA’s attention, and they would later endorse her House bid. In one of her most heavily aired commercials during the Republican primary, Spartz is seen walking through a field, a rifle over her shoulder. A narrator mentions the group’s endorsement.

“We were shocked to have our own Senator opposing us in this mission,” Noblesville Stands Together wrote in a letter to the editor during this year’s congressional primary, published in the Hamilton County Reporter. “And today she proudly advertises her hard-earned NRA endorsement, adding insult to injury for parents whose kids hid under desks and ran out of their school to avoid bullets.” Reintroduced earlier this year in 2020, the bill passed along bipartisan lines—but with no help from Spartz. She railed against the bill on the floor of the Senate, but 43 of 50 lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Senate sided against her and five other Republican senators who opposed the legislation. Holcomb signed Senate Enrolled Act 335 into law on March 21.

A spokesman for Spartz says SB 16, as originally written, violated due process, and did not address the issue with the Noblesville shooter, but could have adversely impacted minority and disadvantaged youth. Juvenile judges, public defenders, and the Commission on Improving the Status of Children shared similar concerns. Spartz supported a different solution proposed by Judge Steve Nation and Rep. Donna Schaibley in the house bill, but it was taken out in the conference committee, and the revised version of SB 16 prevailed.

“Victoria does not believe we should be playing politics with kids’ lives and ‘second chances’ are very important for some of these troubled kids committing lower level crimes,” a spokesman for Spartz said in a statement. “She also passed some legislation in collaboration with the Supreme Court dealing with the juvenile crime prevention and wraparound services, which is very needed for many communities.”

In an interview at Hamilton County Republican headquarters, Spartz defended her vote. “It was a very terrible and unfortunate situation that happened in Noblesville,” she told me. “But looking at a situation like that, we cannot be emotional and legislate laws that are going to affect adversely a lot of other children who have nothing to do with that situation.”

Spartz’s opposition to the bill was still fresh on these parents’ minds all these months and a pandemic later. Talk to these voters, and it’s not hard to see how the Trump era has radicalized suburban, educated voters to realign with Democratic candidates such as Hale, even if they do not embrace the national Democratic agenda. Only one told me that they would both vote for Trump again and even consider voting for Spartz. Kevin Milam, a 47-year-old who works in sales, is the rare member of the group who still plans on voting for Trump this year at the top of the ticket, but is undecided in the 5th District race. “So often, it’s not ‘I’m voting for,’ it’s that ‘I’m not voting for,’” Milam said, referring to politics in general, and the 5th in particular. “I hear that a lot on the national scale, and that’s what I’m hearing a lot here now. The Democratic platform, I don’t support.” Still, one of the less active members of the group, he was surprised to hear of Spartz’s opposition to the group’s priorities, which he supports. He said it made him less likely to vote for Spartz, though he remains undecided.

Not so for Mindy Swift. The 43-year-old who works in education introduces herself to strangers this way, she tells me. “Hi, I’m Mindy Swift, don’t vote for Victoria Spartz. I’ve never been that way before. She doesn’t care that he’s going to get out of juvenile detention and go to Walmart and buy a gun.” Swift had testy exchanges with Spartz at a January town hall over the issue, which included long stretches of Spartz loudly talking over her, according to a recording provided to IM.

Swift’s husband, Matthew, a 46-year-old in the medical field, seems to capture the mood of the group. “I love Susan Brooks,” he told me. But when it comes to Spartz, there is no love lost. “As someone who has always voted for the Republican for every congressional race in my life, I refuse to vote for her, and I will campaign against her with all my heart.”

“I’m a lifelong gun owner, a lifelong hunter,” Mike Harlowe, 54, who works in the healthcare industry, told me. “I do not feel like the Second Amendment is under assault when we talk about common-sense reforms. I do not harbor any images of politicians coming in and confiscating my firearms. I find the platforms of the NRA rigid, and, frankly, not very thought-provoking.” Harlowe, like eight of the nine voters gathered tonight, plans to vote for Hale. “She strikes me as someone who is more interested in talking points than listening to her constituents,” Harlowe said of Spartz.

As Spartz spent her time post-primary working to repair self-inflicted wounds with Republicans and appeal to the kinds of Brooks voters who have soured on her brand of Republicanism, Christina Hale has been making inroads with those same voters.

If Spartz was all but built in a lab to rebut socialism, Hale offers the kind of centrist, palate-cleansing, post-Trump politics that could win her the district. Watch her commercials, and it’s hard to tell whether she’s a Democratic candidate. A former newspaper reporter at the La Porte County Herald-Argus who filed her pieces on county councils and got paid by the column inch—maybe $12,000 a year—Hale got into politics when she realized how bush-league local leaders could be. “I remember that moment covering my first county council, thinking the adults in charge were in it for the right reasons and knew what they were doing, and it just struck me as more amateurish than I had expected it to be,” Hale said.

Christina Hale

Christina Hale and a would-be constituent.

By 2012, she had decided to run for the state legislature. She ran for the 87th District seat, which includes swaths of Broad Ripple. “Christina proved that she can win in a tough, changing district when she ran for state legislature back in 2012,” says Kip Tew, the former Indiana Democratic Party chairman and a political adviser of Hale’s. “She won a very difficult race in 2012. It was very close. And now the district is not even competitive for Republicans. So it’s sort of emblematic of what the congressional seat is like. And I thought it was ripe two years ago.” In the legislature, she focused mostly on issues of education, women, and children. She authored and passed more than 60 bipartisan bills. She established a reputation as a moderate who could do business with the Chamber of Commerce, and won over allies like former Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller.

Hale has said she supports the public option on healthcare, but most of her ads and pitches have been policy-free, a way to ingratiate herself with Republican voters without alienating progressives in her own party. She is, in other words, mostly running on vibes.

“The state of American politics can frustrate me,” she said in a Zoom interview from her home office in Broad Ripple. I think everyone is going to be bombarded by a lot of ads that they’re going to get sick and tired of hearing throughout this campaign cycle. That said, I’m just going to get out there and tell my story, and I’m going to let people know who I am, what I want to do in Congress, and you know I have the record to back that up. I’m a problem solver. I reach across the aisle. I’ve done it here in Indiana and that’s what I’m going to do in Washington.”

The district has not been immune to other societal trends. This past summer, amid nationwide racial justice protests, Black Lives Matter marches snaked down the Monon in Carmel and around the Nickel Plate District Amphitheater lawn in Fishers. Both were signs that the district wasn’t the Republican bastion it once was.

Beyond the atmospherics, there have been institutional changes, too. Democrats won the state Senate seat for the district including Carmel in 2018, and the Zionsville mayor’s office in 2019, not to mention a number of Indianapolis City-County Council seats in the district. Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron isn’t certain whether the wave of votes that helped her win office will translate to support for Hale, but she says the signs are encouraging. “Because we’re further along in the campaign cycle, I can see that many of the same people who were active in bringing people together to learn more about what I wanted to do for Zionsville, I see those same people bringing people together to talk about how Christina can serve the 5th District, and why they are supporting her,” Styron told me. “I do believe there has been some groundwork built.”

David McIntosh, the former 5th District candidate pulling the strings now for the Club for Growth group in D.C., worries about the same trends. “I think what we’re seeing, particularly in the portions of the district in Indianapolis, is more of a drift from a Republican-based district to a Democrat and independent-based district,” says McIntosh, who lost the 5th to Brooks in 2012. “You’ve seen that reflected in local, statehouse, Senate, and state representative races in the past 10 years.”

In 2018, Donnelly won the district by 1,829 votes, sending alarm bells off in Republican war rooms both in Indiana and in the nation’s capital. “If you look at districts across the country, you’ll see that suburban districts are changing rapidly and moving away from Republicans very quickly,” says Tew.


In some ways, the race is becoming nationalized. When Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence descended from Air Force Two at Indianapolis International Airport last July, awaiting the couple at the bottom of the airstairs wasn’t Holcomb, Pence’s former lieutenant governor, or even a member of Indiana’s congressional delegation. Instead, Spartz, sporting a blonde bob and wearing a yellow dress, black blazer, and matching face mask, idled nearby. The Vice President, who knew Spartz from his gubernatorial days, phoned her on Election Night to congratulate her on her victory. Weeks before Pence’s visit to Indianapolis for a roundtable on reopening schools at Marian University, his staffers invited Spartz to the photo-op where Spartz posed for socially distant photos with the Second Couple. Three days later, on July 27, Pence tweeted out his endorsement to his more than 5 million followers: Spartz, he said, would “represent the people of #IN05 with principle and conviction in Congress! She will protect the American Dream and Defend Hoosier Values.”

Meanwhile, Hale was scoring her own coups. The day before Pence’s visit, Hale received the endorsement of former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. A week later, she notched the endorsements of former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who promised to campaign digitally for her, including sending out a fundraising pitch to his donor list that measured more than a million. And then, several days later, former President Barack Obama backed her—one of just 51 House candidates and 118 candidates up and down the ballot total.

In addition to dispatching Pence here, Republicans seem to be auguring at least one loss in the 5th. There is growing evidence that Biden could not only win the district himself, but lift Hale’s chances downballot. In an August fundraising email, the Indiana Republican Party pitched potential donors the kind of red meat that could result in them coughing up a few bucks. “The national Dems—Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, The Squad, and Barack Obama—have targeted a congressional district right here in Indiana and endorsed the liberal candidate, Christina Hale,” the email read. “Conservative Victoria Spartz is ready to go to Washington to fight this liberal Democrat machine.” There was just one name missing from the plea: Biden’s. His brand of politics just doesn’t get the dander up of the average 5th District voter.

The good ol’ boys back at the polo fields may be right. By Election Day, traditionally Republican voters may come back home and vote for Spartz. But Jeff Armstrong is the kind of voter who might give her campaign the most heartburn. For years, Republicans could count on voters like Armstrong, if not to vocally support them, then at least to stay out of the way.

During his 15 years as a Noblesville resident, Armstrong has never been involved in politics. Now a member of Noblesville Stands Together, he plans to attend an upcoming canvassing event at Dillon Park for Christina Hale, knocking on doors and making phone calls on her behalf. The last time he knocked on doors, he was selling garbage bags.

“We’ve been blessed to live in a very quiet community,” Armstrong says. “There’s been one major issue in our community pre-pandemic, and that’s a school shooting. The only person that we have representing us in the state Senate didn’t care enough to vote as her constituents wanted.”

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