- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana residents trickled into voting sites Tuesday for a primary election that lacked any especially galvanizing issues, although some said efforts to enshrine a ban on gay marriage in Indiana’s constitution affected their vote.

Turnout was light in morning voting, though workers in some precincts said that was typical for a midterm election. This year’s election is largely focused on Statehouse races - all 100 House seats are open, along with about half of the state Senate seats - including three Republicans who some conservatives blame for delaying a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Tony Hahn, a Republican, said he would vote against a gay-marriage ban if it ever came to a referendum. The proposal died during this year’s legislative session and has to start the complicated process all over again.

“I would vote against a constitutional amendment that could infringe on anyone’s right to marry,” the 37-year-old attorney said after voting in Indianapolis.

Angela Webb, 47, a registered nurse at St. Francis Hospital, said gay marriage was an issue for her this election year.

“Our pastor just had a very good sermon on that - man and woman,” she said.

She also said Indiana should have its own state-run health insurance marketplace to help eliminate confusion over the Affordable Health Care Act. She said many patients who come to her hospital unable to pay don’t realize they could get coverage on the online insurance market.

“People just do not understand,” she said. “I think it could be better regulated that way.”

With no statewide race on the ballot and few congressional contests expected to be close, the 2014 primary season has been far quieter than 2012, when tea-party-backed state Treasurer Richard Mourdock defeated longtime U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar in the GOP primary. Mourdock lost to Democrat Joe Donnelly in the November general election.

Instead, the battles ahead of this year’s Indiana primary have been highly concentrated, playing out mostly in mailers and local newspapers.

In the state Senate, John Waterman, R-Shelburn, was facing a well-organized and well-funded opponent in Washington City Councilman Eric Bassler. Indiana business interests and some of the political staffers associated with former Gov. Mitch Daniels were helping Bassler. Waterman considered a run against Daniels in the 2008 primary but ultimately stayed out of the race.

Meanwhile two Republican state House members, Rick Niemeyer of Lowell and Mark Messmer of Jasper, were vying for Senate seats that became open due to retirements. Niemeyer was vying for the northwest Indiana seat being vacated by Sen. Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake. Messmer was seeking the southwest Indiana seat held by Sen. Lindel Hume, D-Princeton.

Senate Republicans see Hume’s seat as one of their best chances to improve their existing 24-seat edge over Democrats.

In the House, a handful of incumbents faced surprisingly tough challenges.

In northeast Indiana, tea party supporters have coordinated their opposition to Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, R-Syracuse. Kubacki, a two-term incumbent, faced heat for a vote that helped keep a proposed gay marriage ban off the November ballot. She has won the backing of the state’s business groups and the House Republican Campaign Committee, which protects incumbents.

In the same area of the state, Republican Reps. Kathy Heuer of Columbia City and Casey Cox of Fort Wayne faced challenges from social conservatives angry about the same vote.

House Education Chairman Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, picked up a surprisingly strong challenge from Michael Scott, a union electrician who has gained the backing of the state’s unions. Conservative education overhaul supporters have flocked to Behning’s defense; the Indianapolis Republican was instrumental in the passage of sweeping changes in 2011 and has continued pushing for expansions of the school voucher program.

The winners of Tuesday’s contests will head to November showdowns. Next up for the Republican and Democratic parties are nominating conventions this summer, where party activists will decide who runs for auditor, secretary of state and treasurer.


Associated Press writer Charles D. Wilson in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

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