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« When Non-Binding Is Binding | Blog Home Page | For NRCC, A Good Week »

The Bloody Ninth

For a generation, Indiana's Eighth Congressional District has been known as the "Bloody Eighth," marked by constantly negative campaigns and candidates who find nothing more appealing than attacking their rivals. But next door, in the state's Ninth District, trucking executive Mike Sodrel and one-time Indiana basketball superstar Baron Hill have been engaged in a similarly ugly back-and-forth for the past six years.

After winning election in 1998, Hill, a Democrat, took a seat that should have favored Republicans. He held on, though barely, in 2002, defeating Sodrel 51%-46%. Sodrel returned in 2004 to win by about 1500 votes. In 2006, Hill ran again, taking 50% to Sodrel's 46%.

Yesterday, Sodrel announced he would try to return to Congress, marking the fourth time in four cycles the two have run against each other. The race was costly last time out -- Sodrel spent $2.7 million to Hill's $1.8 million, while outside groups threw in more than $6 million on behalf of their candidates.

The district borders Kentucky, in Indiana's southeast corner, and boasts the campus of Indiana University, where Hill played college basketball. Sodrel's base is the more conservative border area along the Ohio River. President Bush won the district by 19 points in 2004, and by 16 points in 2000. If Republicans have a good year in 2008, Sodrel has a chance to take back at least one seat for his party.