Democratic former Sen. Evan Bayh and Republican Rep. Todd Young are set to face each other Tuesday evening in what could be their only debate during an increasingly bitter campaign for Indiana’s open U.S. Senate seat.
Bayh and Young will be joined by Libertarian candidate Lucy Brenton for the hour-long debate beginning at 7 p.m. EDT. The nonprofit Indiana Debate Commission says it will be broadcast by several television and radio stations around the state.
The Indiana campaign has become a key national race as Democrats try to capture the seat now held by retiring Republican Sen. Dan Coats and overturn the GOP’s narrow Senate majority.
Bayh held the seat for 12 years but decided not to seek re-election in 2010. Outside GOP backers including a super PAC tied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the National Rifle Association and the billionaire Koch brothers have spent at least $15 million against Bayh, much of it on TV commercials attacking his work in Washington, D.C., since leaving the Senate.
Bayh has criticized Young for campaigning against the 2008 auto bailout that rescued carmakers General Motors and Chrysler and for his use of taxpayer-financed mailers.
Young has hit Bayh hard over his ownership of homes in Washington and maintains he has been living there rather than the condominium he owns in Indianapolis.
Young, who has held a southern Indiana congressional seat since 2010, went so far as to call Bayh “a fundamentally flawed person” during a news conference.
“It is essential that Indiana be represented by at least one Republican U.S. senator … who can ensure the Republicans serve as a check and balance against whomever the next president is,” Young said.
Bayh, the Democrats’ prize Senate recruit, surprisingly entered the race in July with a huge fundraising lead over Young and sky-high name ID from his time as a popular governor and senator.
But he’s been put on the defensive over his post-Senate work for a Washington law firm and private equity fund. Bayh earned nearly $6.3 million since the beginning of 2015, with about a third of the total coming from Apollo Global Management, a self-described alternative investment manager based in New York, according to financial disclosure records.
The Associated Press reported this month that during his final year as a senator Bayh had more than four dozen meetings and telephone calls with headhunters and future corporate employers.
Bayh said in an interview last week that he consistently voted to crack down on big banks and oil companies.
“Congressman Young’s voting record and mine are very clear,” Bayh said. “I’ve voted for the best interests of Hoosier families, and Congressman Young’s voting record has been against the best interests of Hoosier families.”
The Indiana Debate Commission has planned to organize a second Senate debate, but it has faced difficulty in lining up a date between the candidates, possible venues and broadcasters, commission board member Keith Robinson said.