Indiana Senator Dan Coats To Retire

Indiana Republican Senator Dan Coats announced today that he will not be running for re-election in 2016:

Republican Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana will not seek another term in office, he said Tuesday.

Coats told the political news website Indy Politics that his age and his preference to legislate rather than campaign both played a role in his decision, which he told Senate leaders about Tuesday.

In a statement, Coats pledged to focus his time and energy in his remaining months in office on the “major challenges that Hoosiers sent me to Washington to address.”

“This was not an easy decision,” Coats said in the statement. “While I believe I am well-positioned to run a successful campaign for another six-year term, I have concluded that the time has come to pass this demanding job to the next generation of leaders.”

Coats was a member of the House of Representatives from 1981 to 1989, when he became a senator. He served until 1999, when he stepped down because of a term-limit pledge he’d made to the Indiana electorate. In between two stints in the private sector, he served as ambassador to Germany. He was elected to the Senate again in 2010.

Earlier this month, Coats told Politico that he wouldn’t run for a second term unless he was confident that Congress would be able to accomplish something. But in an interview withHowey Politics Indiana, he said congressional gridlock didn’t factor into his decision.

“It has nothing to do with a terribly dysfunctional Senate,” he said. “It is related to the fact that I had to face the reality of age. There is a seven in front of the next digit. After a campaign and six more years in the Senate, I would be four months shy of 80 years old.”\

Senate vacancies being a rare thing, there are probably plenty of ambitious Indiana politicians who are looking at this race:

According to Indiana press reports, possible Republican contenders include a handful of current House members: Larry Bucshon, Todd Rokita, Marlin Stutzman, Luke Messer, Todd Young, and Susan Brooks. Also mentioned are Brian Bosma, speaker of the Indiana House, and Eric Holcomb, Coats’s in-state chief of staff.

On the Democratic side, there’s been some chatter over whether former Sen. Evan Bayh will throw his hat in the ring. Coats took Bayh’s seat after Bayh decided in 2010 not to run for reelection. At the time, Bayh cited dysfunction in the Senate as his reason for departing, a sentiment that Coats echoed in his early-March comments to Politico.

This being Indiana, the natural conclusion is to conclude that this is likely to be a safe seat for the Republicans in the end. However, it’s worth noting that Bayh served in the Senate for two terms prior to retiring and, of course, that Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, beat Richard Mourdock in the Hoosier State despite the fact that Mitt Romney had won the state quite convincingly at the Presidential level. Depending on who the GOP nominates, and especially if Bayh decides to throw his hat back in the ring, this could very easily become a competitive seat that the GOP will have to defend just as it will be defending potentially vulnerable seats in Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Florida, and Ohio. This will be a race worth keeping an eye on until we see who gets in the race.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Electroman says:

    As a former Indiana resident (I’m a Purdue alum; that’s my excuse) I’d love to see Evan Bayh retake his spot in the Senate. Although my time there preceded his tenure as governor, most folks I know remember him as being pretty good.

  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    A few things will make this more interesting than appears to an outsider:

    1. Pence’s position. His favorability is fairly low for a Republican governor in a Red State. His very, very public fight with the Secretary of Education (the only state Dem elected official–she beat his entire vote tally, so he takes it very personally) has lost him the support of many moderate Republicans. That won’t be a problem in achieving the nomination, but it will hurt him in the general. Why does this matter? Because…

    2. When he was elected and the state legislator achieved a super-majority, Dems were shaken enough that it looked like they weren’t going to put up a fight in 2016. Then the above happened (a long with a few other mis-steps) and now some top Dems are lining up donors and build a campaign to take him on. Which means…

    3. There are at least 3 very capable politicians (Bayh, Baron Hill, former state speaker of the house John Gregg) potentially gunning for 1 seat. Now with a second race, there is a lot more breathing room, and a lot less chance of Dem infighting going for either of these seats.

    4. Hillary is liked in this state a lot more than Obama ever has been/was. Normally I wouldnt’ expect a coat-tails effect on a Senate seat in this state. Now it’s a distinct possibility.

    5. Due to “Right to work” legislation, and now a repeal of the common construction wage, unions are planning on pouring in a lot of money to this state. All three of the mentioned Dems have strong ties to labor and can count on an abnormal amount of funding from unions.

    So, yeah, could be an exciting race. My money would still be on Republicans, but 2016 is probably the best shot Dems will have at a Senate pickup in Indiana for quite awhile.

  3. socraticsilence says:

    Watch the Mayor of South Bend, that guy has a killer bio (was doing candidate recruitment work in 2013 and he popped).