Indiana primary: all eyes are on the race for governor

George Bush, Michael Dukakis, and Jesse Jackson have long had their names on ballots for next Tuesday's Indiana primary. But Evan Bayh wasn't sure his name would be there until yesterday afternoon. The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Mr. Bayh, Indiana's popular secretary of state, has lived in Indiana long enough to run for governor.

He represents the Democratic Party's best chance in years to break 20 years of Republican rule in the governor's mansion.

``There is more interest in the governor's race than the one for president,'' says Brian Vargus, director of the Public Opinion Laboratory at Indiana University and Purdue University in Indianapolis.

Barring any major surprises, Bayh should win the governorship, Mr. Vargus adds.

Bayh, son of popular former US Sen. Birch Bayh, is heavily favored to win Tuesday's primary. Even Republicans acknowledge that their candidate - Lt. Gov. John Mutz - faces an uphill battle.

``We are presuming it is going to be tough,'' says Indiana Republican chairman Gordon Durnil. Incumbent Gov. Robert Orr is ineligible to run for a third term.

The question of Bayh's residence added an element of uncertainty in what was already a closely watched race. First raised last September by the Indianapolis News, the issue hinged on a state constitutional requirement that gubernatorial candidates must live in the state five years preceding the election. Bayh worked for a Washington, D.C., law firm from July 1983 to September 1984.

The state Supreme Court agreed with the young politician that he always intended to return to his home state. Earlier this year, a county circuit judge ruled in Bayh's favor. But the Republican-dominated state election board appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

Mr. Durnil defends the appeal, saying the situation needed to be cleared up. ``The overriding political issue was: Let us get it resolved so it won't be hanging over us in the fall.''

But Democrats, and even many Republicans, sense that the issue has worked in Bayh's favor. The Indianapolis Star published poll results Monday showing Bayh leading Mr. Mutz by a 15-percentage-point margin, with 48 percent support. Nearly half of those surveyed said they thought the court challenge was an attempt by the Republicans to sabotage Bayh's candidacy.

Mutz publicly opposed the Republican move to appeal the lower court ruling to the state Supreme Court.

The Democrats are capitalizing on the theme that it is time for a change in state government. Besides their 20 years in the governor's mansion, the Republicans have controlled both houses of the state legislature for most of the last 20 years.

The Republicans are contrasting Mutz's experience with Bayh's relative inexperience. Over the weekend, the Mutz campaign began airing its first two commercials, emphasizing the lieutenant governor's work in education and economic development.

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