Gonzales

Ratings change: Brooks retirement makes Indiana 5th less safe for GOP

Inside Elections downgrades seat from Solid to Likely Republican

The announced retirement of Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., makes her seat harder for Republicans to defend in 2020 according to Inside Elections’ Nathan L. Gonzales. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana announced she will not seek re-election, creating a potential open-seat headache for Republicans in Indiana’s 5th District. The congresswoman won re-election to a fourth term in 2018 in the central Indiana district with 57 percent, but the district shifted between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections.

Now-Utah Sen. Mitt Romney won the 5th District 58-41 percent over President Barack Obama in 2012, but Donald Trump carried it more narrowly 53-41 percent over Hillary Clinton in 2016, fueling Democratic optimism even before Brooks’ announcement. Democratic strategists have also been excited about former state Rep. Christina Hale getting into the race. She ran for lieutenant governor on a ticket with John Gregg in 2016, losing by 7 points in the 5th District.

The 5th District is categorized as Sparse Suburban by CityLab, as it stretches from the northern Indianapolis suburbs up to Marion. With 45 percent of residents who have a bachelor’s degree or higher, it’s the fifth highest-educated district represented by a Republican in the country. It’s the type of seat where the president could struggle based on a downturn in GOP performance among suburban and college-educated voters. Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly carried the district narrowly in 2018, even though he lost statewide to Republican Mike Braun.

Brooks is one of just 13 Republican women in the House, so her exit could bring that number down even more. But it’s too early to know who Republicans will nominate to replace her, how this race will develop, and what the national political environment will look like more than a year from now. We’re changing our rating of Indiana’s 5th from Solid Republican to Likely Republican.

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