Walorski, who had strong ties to tea party groups, decisively won her primary, but she faced a tough fight against Donnelly even in that red wave year. The congressman benefited from union support in an area where labor still held sway, and he went after Walorski for supporting a 23% national sales tax. Donnelly also enjoyed the backing of the NRA, which still was willing to endorse Democratic incumbents at the time, and he prevailed 48-47 under very tough conditions.
Walorski quickly announced that she’d run again in 2012, but she never got a rematch with Donnelly. The incumbent decided to campaign for the Senate after the GOP gerrymandered the 2nd, and this time, Walorski looked like the clear favorite. However, she still went through another tough general election against Brendan Mullen, an Army veteran who campaigned as a moderate. Walorski’s second campaign was another cliffhanger, but this time she came out on top 49-48. The narrow win came about as Mitt Romney was carrying the 2nd 56-42, though Donnelly was also prevailing here 50-45 as he was winning his Senate race.
Democrats were determined to target Walorski again, but they got dispiriting news when Mullen decided not to wage another bid in 2014. Walorski, who shed her old reputation as a hard-right culture warrior by adopting more establishment-oriented positions and emphasizing bipartisanship, also benefited from her seat’s continuing shift to the right.
While Democrats occasionally talked about putting this constituency into play, she never came close to losing: Walorski’s closest re-election fight was in 2018, when she beat self-funder Mel Hall by a convincing 55-45. In 2020, Walorski easily won another term as Trump was taking her once-competitive 2nd District 59-39.
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