Hoosier politics took an unexpected turn Monday night when Democratic Senate candidate Tamyra d’Ippolito accused the White House of conspiring with party officials to secretly draft Rep. Baron Hill to run against her.
As the only other Democrat in the field, d’Ippolito became the presumptive front-runner for the Democratic nomination when Sen. Evan Bayh announced Monday that he would not seek re-election. Indiana Senate candidates must collect 4,500 signatures to appear on the ballot, including 500 from each of the state’s nine congressional districts.
As of 9:30 p.m. Monday d’Ippolito told The Daily Caller she was 1,000 signatures short and had volunteers across the state planning to work through the night to accomplish the goal before the noon deadline on Tuesday.
However, d’Ippolito said she was informed Monday that Hill, a blue dog who represents Indiana’s 9th District in the House, already has the necessary signatures and is sitting on them until the deadline. She accused White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel of colluding with Hill and the Democratic party county chairs to secretly supplant her as the nominee.
“I can’t confirm so I’m working feverishly to find out if this is the deal. If it is, there’s something unethical going on in Indiana politics,” d’Ippolito said. She then referenced Emanuel’s Jan. 9 appearance at a fundraiser for Hill in Bloomington and accused the president’s top political aide of playing kingmaker during that visit.
“Don’t you find that strange, Rahm Emanuel coming to Indiana?” she asked, adding that Emanuel was sent by the White House to “find a blue dog to put into power.”
D’Ippolito said she asked mutual friends to contact Hill repeatedly on Monday, without success. Hill’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Monday evening. If true, she called the arrangement “a setup”.
“I’m saying it’s an inside job. Indianagate instead of Watergate,” d’Ippolito said. “The White House set this up, decided who they are gonna put in office, called the Democratic county heads and told them to secretly get signatures. Bingo-bongo.”
A White House official offered a clear response to d’Ippolito’s charge: “That’s not true,” he told The Daily Caller.
He did not say if the White House is backing Hill or any other candidate to replace Bayh.
A restaurant owner and former production artist who also worked on Wall Street, d’Ippolito earned degrees in graphic design and photography from Indiana State and in filmmaking from the New York Film Academy. She initially decided to run against Bayh “because he’s a blue dog” and considers Hill little more than a continuation of the retiring Senator. Her web site also notes her personal interest in the day’s top political issue:
However, since moving to Indiana I have had no health insurance. I was diagnosed with colon cancer five years ago giving me a pre-existing condition. Additionally, I own a small business. Those two obstacles make insurance very expensive and unattainable. As a cancer survivor and small business owner, health reform is an issue that directly affects me like many Indiana residents.
On Monday night d’Ippolito posted a message to her Facebook and Twitter accounts saying that she was “looking for a political attorney in Indiana to ask a few questions” followed by her number and a promise to wait by the phone. When this reporter tried the number, d’Ippolito answered the phone herself.