Everyone was sure U.S. Rep. Dan Burton would not seek re-election next year after the Republican-controlled legislature reconfigured his district to remove the rural counties in the 5th District, leaving him with a district centered in Hamilton County and the northern one-third of Marion County, areas where he has shown considerable weakness in the last two primary elections. The district also includes, Madison, Blackford and Grant Counties and the eastern portions of Boone and Howard Counties.
In crowded 2010 primary that featured 7 candidates, for example, Burton finished second behind Luke Messer in Hamilton County, garnering only 25% of the vote. In Marion County, he did even worse. He finished third behind John McGoff, who grabbed more than 31% of the vote, and Messer, who collected more than 23% of the vote in the crowded field. Burton received just 22% of the vote in Marion County.
Burton didn't fare well in the newly-configured 5th District in a contested 2008 primary when he went head-to-head with John McGoff. McGoff outdistanced him in Marion County by more than 3,000 votes. McGoff carried Hamilton County in 2008 with more than 53% of the vote, nearly 10 percentage points higher than Burton's total.
McGoff was the first to jump into the 2012 primary race. He enjoys residual name recognition from his previous runs and is well-liked, but he has struggled in both of his prior races to raise enough money to be truly competitive. He is now being joined by former U.S. Rep. David McIntosh, who represented the neighboring 6th District for several terms before giving up his seat to run for governor in 2000 against Frank O'Bannon. Some party activists are less than excited about McIntosh entering the race after his disappointing loss in the 2000 gubernatorial race against O'Bannon, a race many thought was poorly executed by McIntosh. He has lived and worked in D.C. since losing that race. Susan Brooks, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana and general counsel to Ivy Tech, is planning to join the race as well.
According to Politico, McIntosh will have the backing of two former state party chairmen, Al Hubbard and Jim Kittle, as well as businessman Fred Klipsch, which should mean he will have no trouble raising big bucks for his campaign. Howard Co. GOP Chairman Craig Dunn, who has backed Burton in each of the past two primary races he has faced, tells Politico he does not plan to endorse any candidate in next year's primary. Burton will have no support from party leadership in either Hamilton or Marion Counties, where the bulk of the primary votes will be cast. Brooks, a former Ice Miller attorney, should be able to raise big money through her network of big firm lawyers she has cultivated over the years by doing the bidding work of Indianapolis' elite whether working for Steve Goldsmith or blocking prosecution of public corruption cases brought to her attention while serving as U.S. Attorney. She may also have an advantage as the only female candidate in a crowded field.
Many observers had expected Burton to step aside and endorse Sen. Mike Delph, a former congressional staffer in his district office. Delph has developed a big following among conservative activists within and outside his Senate district during his tenure in the state senate. His supporters fear he will lose out on an opportunity to capture Burton's congressional seat as a result of Burton's stubborn insistence on seeking re-election in a race most political observers believe he is destined to lose. Burton has represented the district since 1983.