Evan Bayh on Wednesday morning officially announced he is running for the Senate in Indiana, giving Democrats a major boost in the battle for the seat.
“With the challenges facing Indiana and our country, I can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch as partisan bickering grinds Washington to a halt,” Bayh said in a statement Wednesday morning announcing his run.
“Hoosier families deserve more and I’ve decided to run to take their cause to the U.S. Senate."
Bayh's plans were leaked Monday, just a few hours before former Democratic Rep. Baron Hill announced he was bowing out of the race. The move seemed calculated to clear the way for Bayh, though Hill made no mention of him in a statement announcing his decision.
The move puts the Senate seat, now held by the retiring Sen. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race Cyber preparedness could save America's 'unsinkable aircraft carrier' MORE (R), into play for the Democrats. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report reclassified the Senate race from “likely Republican” to “toss-up” after Bayh's decision was reported.
The competitive status of Indiana is a major shift in the battle for the Senate majority. Democrats need just four seats to retake the body if retain hold the White House, and five if the party does not, since the vice president holds the Senate's tie-breaking vote.
Bayh is well known in the Hoosier State, with his father, Birch Bayh, serving in the Senate from the state for nearly two decades. Evan Bayh served briefly as secretary of state in Indiana before becoming governor in 1989, holding that office for eight years. He was then elected to the Senate in 1998, where he served until abruptly retiring in 2010, citing partisan gridlock and poor relationships among lawmakers.
“One of the reasons I decided to retire was to spend more time with my twin boys and my wife,” Bayh said in his Wednesday statement. “Now, I see their future — and all of Indiana’s future — put at risk by a broken political system.”
He also benefits from a massive war chest left of more than $9 million over from his days in office, a huge sum for a candidate just starting a campaign.
But Bayh won't have an easy path to the Senate. Indiana has drifted more red over the years, with President Obama losing the state in 2012 despite a Democratic victory in that year's Senate race.
Though not a registered lobbyist himself, Bayh became a partner at the law firm McGuireWoods and served as an adviser for its lobbying wing.
Republicans, including GOP Senate nominee Rep. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungHow to fix the semiconductor chip shortage (it's more than manufacturing) Senate Democrats try to defuse GOP budget drama The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill MORE, pounced on Bayh's late entry in the race with statements Monday calling him an opportunist.
“This seat isn’t the birthright of a wealthy lobbyist from Washington, it belongs to the people of Indiana,” Young campaign manager Trevor Foughty said in a statement.
Young's campaign statement and others are zeroing in on Bayh's work for the law firm McGuireWoods, where he served as an adviser to its lobbying wing despite not being a registered lobbyist himself.
Montana Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Polls open in California as Newsom fights for job MORE, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, cheered Bayh's decision in a statement released by the group.
“At a time when our country is so divided across party lines, we need more leaders committed to putting aside these differences to confront our greatest challenges. Evan Bayh’s record as Indiana’s Governor and U.S. Senator reflects this very commitment," he said.
"Evan has once again shown his commitment to the people he’s served by stepping forward to make sure middle class Hoosiers have a true voice in the Senate. We look forward to working to elect him this fall."
— Updated at 11:59 a.m.