Ukraine-born House member who opposed aiding her native country defends her seat in Indiana primary

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A Ukrainian-born congresswoman who recently opposed sending aid to her war-torn country is defending her seat Tuesday against a fellow Republican who has outpaced her in spending and fundraising.

U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz is the first and only Ukrainian-born House member and previously backed support for the country. But ahead of her primary contest, she reversed her position and voted against sending $61 billion in aid to Ukraine. She defended the switch, arguing her loyalty is to America first and that she wanted to see policy on the U.S.-Mexico border included in the aid package, a position largely shared by her Republican challengers.

The election in the northern suburbs of Indianapolis will determine whether Spartz’s maneuvers will pay off. More broadly, the race is a barometer of whether support for Ukraine is a powerful issue among GOP voters. The issue has become an increasingly divisive topic among Republicans in Washington, where many are pressing for a drawdown in aid.

If she’s defeated, Spartz would be the first House Republican to lose a primary this year in a race that wasn’t affected by redistricting.

The primary marks the latest twist in Spartz’s political career. She won a tight primary race in 2020 and wasn’t challenged for the GOP nomination in 2022. She initially planned to leave Congress last year, opting against reelection to her House seat and forgoing a chance to seek the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Mike Braun.

She later reversed course, deciding to seek another term in the House. But her shifting plans gave an opening to state Rep. Chuck Goodrich to outraise Spartz by millions of dollars and become her main competitor in the primary.

Statewide, presumptive presidential nominees former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden seek to pile up more delegates heading to their respective party conventions later this summer. Trump took Indiana by 16 points in 2020. The only question on the GOP side is how many votes will go to former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, who is still on the primary ballot after dropping out of the race in March.

Indiana voters do not have the option to vote “ uncommitted.” The protest-vote movement in some states against Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war has cast doubt on the president’s Democratic support in November.

The most watched and expensive contest within the state is the six-way race to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb. Braun is considered the race’s front-runner, bolstered by several advantages: name recognition, money and Trump’s endorsement. He spent more than $6 million in the first three months of 2024 alone.

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch has campaigned to slash the state’s income tax. Also running are two former commerce secretaries, Brad Chambers — who has contributed $10 million to his campaign — and Eric Doden.

Once seen as a probable Hoosier State governor, former Attorney General Curtis Hill has struggled to compete. Political novice Jamie Reitenour is also on the ballot.

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jennifer McCormick is uncontested.

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