ELKHART — Republican Jackie Walorski held a roughly 4,000-vote lead Tuesday in the race for Indiana’s 2nd District seat in the U.S. House with 99 percent of precincts reporting.
With ballots from 93 percent of the precincts counted, Walorski had garnered 129,194 votes — 49 percent of the total. Democrat Brendan Mullen had 124,582 votes, or 47 percent, while Libertarian Joe Ruiz had 9,046 votes, 3 percent, according to figures from the Associated Press.
As of 10:15 p.m., Walorski had not yet made an appearance at her ballot-counting party at the RV Hall of Fame. A campaign staffer had said earlier that she was watching returns come in with family, waiting for a decisive turn in the race.
Mullen was expected to arrive at the Westside Democratic and Civic Club on South Bend’s far west side to watch results, but he chose to remain at his headquarters in downtown South Bend.
Early on, supporters occasionally cheered televised updates for President Barack Obama and Joe Donnelly, of Granger, in Indiana’s U.S. Senate race, but were especially vocal about early vote totals for Mullen that showed him ahead.
But by 8:55 p.m., the tenor changed when Walorski took a 50 to 47 percent lead with 82 percent of the votes counted.
With Mullen trailing and absent, the outlook seemed to shift toward the presidential race.
By 9:30 p.m., Obama was declared the winner in Wisconsin and the crowd gave its biggest cheer of the night up to that point.
And around 9:45 p.m., Donnelly was declared the winner over Richard Mourdock, drawing an even bigger roar from the crowd of nearly 100 people.
It was a testy and intense campaign, with sharp attacks coming from both the main party contenders.
Walorski ran on her three terms as a member of the Indiana House, saying efforts by state lawmakers to balance Indiana’s budget and control spending could be a blueprint for efforts at the national level. She had derided Mullen, who runs a consulting firm and had lived five years in Washington, D.C., as a “D.C. insider.”
Mullen, a U.S. Army veteran who grew up in South Bend, had run on his business and military background and his vow to be a bipartisan player. He had accused Walorski, who has strong tea party support, of being a charged and overly-partisan figure, incapable of working across the political aisle.
Some political watchers had given Walorski the edge in the race. She came into the contest with better name recognition stemming from her failed 2010 U.S. House bid and her three terms in the Indiana House. Moreover, the 2nd District was redrawn after the 2010 census, making it more friendly to Republicans.
Mullen, though, campaigned hard, and neither he nor Walorski let up heading into Tuesday. Walorski had raised $1.63 million for her campaign while the Democrat had $1.15 million.
The 2nd District includes seven north central Indiana counties and parts of two others. Elkhart County, which has been divided between the 2nd and 3rd U.S. House districts, was moved completely into the district per the changes after the 2010 census.
Reporter Dan Spalding contributed to this story.