Long Thompson wins Ind. Dem. gubernatorial primary

May 7, 2008 8:32:36 AM PDT
Jill Long Thompson got by with a little help from her friends. The former congresswoman from northeast Indiana spent much of Tuesday night huddled with friends in a Fort Wayne hotel room crunching the numbers in the Democratic governor's race and saw her former constituents vote for her in droves to help her beat Indianapolis architect Jim Schellinger in the primary Tuesday night.

"It was an intense night," Long Thompson said early Wednesday. "You're always on edge during the day of the election, but we have done a good job of crunching numbers so knew where we were."

She received more than 70 percent of the vote in Allen, DeKalb, Noble, Steuben and Whitley counties, 67 percent in Adams, Huntington and Wells county, and 63 percent in LaGrange -- all parts of her former district -- helping her to eke out a 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent victory over Schellinger, according to unofficial results tallied by The Associated Press. She will face Gov. Mitch Daniels in November.

"The strong support in my old congressional district was important," said Long Thompson, who now lives in rural Marshall County near Argos.

Schellinger was not conceding defeat. His campaign issued a statement late Wednesday morning saying there were some precincts where votes were uncounted, there were provisional ballots to count and sort through, and a recanvass process that could show shifts in county vote totals.

"As we know, the election process is sometimes a lengthy one when elections are very, very close," campaign manager Tim Jeffers said in a statement. "But as Democrats, we believe every vote must count. It's important that we protect the integrity of the election process, especially with this many new registered voters and record turnout."

Schellinger spokeswoman Jennifer Wagner said the campaign was "fact finding," and had not decided yet whether to seek a recount.

Long Thompson said late Wednesday morning that she believed she was clearly the winner and looked forward to taking on Daniels.

"Let me just say that all the major news organizations have declared me the winner," she said.

Long Thompson, who has a Ph.D in business, said she thought her background in economic development was a key factor in her win. After declaring victory, she said she planned to go back in her room and pray with her supporters "to rebuild Indiana's economy."

The race went back and forth during the night Tuesday, with Long Thompson leading early, Schellinger edging ahead for several hours, and Long Thompson moving ahead after 1 a.m. EDT when results from Lake County came in.

Schellinger, a regular donor to the party who was making his first run for office, had an early fundraising advantage and backing from some big-name state Democrats. Long Thompson had better name recognition, having represented northeast Indiana in Congress from 1989 to early 1995 and running unsuccessfully for Congress in north-central Indiana in 2002. She also served as undersecretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration.

Long Thompson heads into November's race at a financial disadvantage against the well-funded Daniels, who had no primary opponent.

"The challenger would have to have a lot of money just to catch up with name recognition," William Kubik, a political science professor at Hanover College in southern Indiana, said before the results were in.

But party officials hope voter displeasure with some of the first-term governor's changes will bolster Long Thompson.

Both candidates had criticized Daniels for leasing the Indiana Toll Road and other privatization efforts and ending collective bargaining rights for state employees. They also said that Daniels' job-creation efforts have fallen far short of expectations and that the sluggish economy has taken a toll on Indiana families.

While both candidates ran TV ads for weeks, Daniels blitzed the airwaves with commercials of his own. In one he acknowledged that many people think he has ushered in change too fast. He says he understands that sentiment but hopes people believe he wants to improve Indiana.

Daniels has outraised and outspent the two Democrats, and as of March 31 had $5.3 million cash on hand -- four times that of Schellinger and Long Thompson combined.

Long Thompson said she doesn't think she will have any trouble winning over Schellinger's supporters.

"We've very unified about our belief in the importance of beating Mitch Daniels," she said.


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