GOP Sen. Dan Coats won't seek re-election in 2016

Retirement could set up competitive contest in Indiana

Published March 24, 2015 4:09PM (EDT)

 Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN)   (GOP Weekly Address/YouTube screenshot)
Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) (GOP Weekly Address/YouTube screenshot)

Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana will not seek re-election next year, Indy Politics reports.

The Republican told the site that he decided to focus on his Senate work rather than gear up for a re-election battle. A formal announcement of his retirement is forthcoming.

Appointed to the Senate in 1989 to succeed Dan Quayle, who had become vice president under George H. W. Bush, Coats kept the seat in a 1990 special election and won a full term in 1992. He did not seek re-election in 1998, and later served as ambassador to Germany during President George W. Bush's administration. Though he had relocated to North Carolina, Coats mounted a Senate comeback bid in Indiana in 2010, easily defeating Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Evan Bayh.

Coats' retirement sets up a potentially competitive open-seat contest. Indy Politics reports that possible Republican candidates include state House Speaker Brian Bosma; U.S. Reps. Todd Young,Marlin Stutzman, and Todd Rokita; and Eric Holcomb, Coats' Indiana chief of staff. Possible Democratic contenders include Bayh, Ellsworth, and former Rep. Baron Hill.

Although Indiana is generally a Republican-leaning state, Barack Obama carried it in 2008, and now-Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) defeated an ultraconservative Republican opponent in 2012. The state is not as clear a Democratic pickup opportunity in 2016 as states like Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, but the higher turnout that comes with a presidential year at least increases the likelihood that the party's nominee will perform better than Ellsworth did in 2010, when he garnered just 40 percent of the vote.

Coats is the first Republican senator to opt against a re-election bid in 2016. Democratic Sens. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Barbara Boxer of California are also stepping down next year.

By Luke Brinker

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2016 Elections Dan Coats Indiana R-ind. U.s. Senate