By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS - U.S. Sen. Dan Coats will not seek another term in 2016. Coats told Howey Politics Indiana late this morning, “It has nothing to do with a terribly dysfunctional Senate. 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.

“There is almost a responsibility to turn it over the responsibility to the next generation,” Coats told HPI late this morning. ”I will also have the privilege of not having to go around the country raising money."

Coats said that by not seeking reelection, he will have time to address issues “that will take a long time to address, whether it is the terrorism issue or the debt issue.”

Coats told HPI that he will not make an endorsement for the Republican nomination, though he said he has been encouraging his chief of staff, former Indiana Republican Chairman Eric Holcomb “to seek elective office. He had thought he might run in 2018 against Joe Donnelly,” Coats said. “When I told him that I was leaning in this direction, he said he was going to talk this over with his wife. We have a good bench of people who have experience. I don’t have any idea who might run. But I don’t think it’s right for me to make a formal endorsement.”

Capitol Hill sources have told HPI that U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman has been talking about a potential bid in 2016 if Coats did not seek reelection. Coats entered the race in February 2010 after Stutzman, former congressman John Hostettler and two other candidates had trouble raising money. Less than a fortnight after Coats announced he would enter the race, U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh stunned the political world by abruptly announcing his retirement.

On Monday, Bayh told Political Poll that “I have no interest at this point.”

Gov. Mike Pence reacted saying, “With his decision to retire from the United States Senate at the end of his current term, Senator Dan Coats will bring to a close an extraordinary career in public service marked by humility, integrity, and a commitment to principled conservative leadership.” 

In 1997, Coat stunned the political establishment when he abruptly announced he would not seek a full-term as former Gov. Bayh prepared for what many saw as an epic showdown. Coats was appointed to the seat in 1988 as Dan Quayle ascended to the vice presidency, then won races in 1990 against then State Rep. Baron Hill to finish the Quayle term, and a full-term in 1992 against Joe Hogsett, a key Bayh ally. At the time, Coats said he was tired of the constant fundraising required for a reelection bid. In a 1998 interview with HPI, Coats discussed his congressional career, left the room and then returned, saying he had forgotten to say one thing: “I could have beaten Evan Bayh.”

The only Democrat to express interest in the 2016 race is Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., who said he would get in if no other Democrat ran. Former congressman Baron Hill appears to be preparing for a gubernatorial primary against 2012 nominee John Gregg, though Hill told HPI earlier this month that some Democrats had encouraged him to consider the Senate race.

Coats said that in his final two years in the Senate, “I am going to take every advantage” to work on the issues of national security and debt that prompted him to return to the Senate in 2010.

Other Republicans expected to at least weigh a race include U.S. Reps. Todd Rokita, Luke Messer, Susan Brooks Todd Young and Larry Bucshon.

When Bayh opted out of the 2016 gubernatorial race in September 2014, Howey Politics Indiana asked him about a potential Senate race. “Thank you for asking. I was thinking about this the other day,” Bayh responded. “I’m 58, I’ll be 59 in December and I don’t know how many elections there are between now and the average life expectancy for a male, but there are probably dozens of more elections. I have no plans to run for anything. Period. End of paragraph. And I hope that by making that statement I can rule out a lot of the speculation.”

He added, “I can’t predict the future with all of its combinations, twists and turns. No. 2, if I make a flat out statement . . . I guess another way to answer your question is if I don’t say to you under no circumstances will I run for any other office in the remainder of my life.”

The only sliver of hope for Indiana Democrats came when Bayh added, that “what is actively on my mind is helping Hillary Clinton to run for president.”


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