Democrats close to the situation acknowledge that picking Hill could imperil his House seat, but there’s not a whole lot they can do, given the timing of Bayh’s retirement.
Some say Hill could potentially remain on the primary ballot, since it looks like the Senate nomination won’t become official until after the May 4 primary, but others insist that he would have to withdraw from his House race because state law prohibits seeking two offices at once.
The last thing Democrats want is an open legal question jeopardizing a top House battleground. Democratic party leaders have been seeking plenty of legal advice in advance of the filing deadlines in the coming days.
Complicating matters in Hill’s district is the fact that his level of interest in the Senate isn’t even known yet, because he has been on an overseas congressional delegation this week.
By contract, in Ellsworth’s district, no other Democrats had filed as of Thursday afternoon. And even if Van Haaften doesn’t file in time, party leaders could pick their nominee because there are no other candidates in the race.
Both Ellsworth and Hill occupy districts that have been targeted by the GOP. Both districts are in southern Indiana that went modestly for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008.
Candidates who are interested in seeking their party’s Senate nomination must submit their names to the state party executive committee by Monday. From there, party leaders will select their nominee.
Another House member who has been mentioned, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), faces no primary opponents and would, like Ellsworth, be easier to replace with a top candidate.
Republicans have cried foul, suggesting Bayh subverted the primary process by exiting the race the day before Senate signatures were due to counties around the state.