A super-rich Indiana GOP contestant... who isn't Trump
Consider the rip-roaring House race in which the one of the candidates is accused of being a carpetbagger who parachuted in to the state just months ago, and is proceeding to try to "buy" the seat.
Trey Hollingsworth, a businessman with roots in Tennessee, moved to the state last year, registered to vote in September, and then shortly afterwards declared his candidacy for the vacant 9th Congressional District, solidly Republican, seat.
His involvement in the race, and the amount that he, and a supporting super PAC funded entirely by his father, have spent has shaken up the southern Indiana district.
Hollingsworth, a 32-year-old originally from Clinton, Tennessee, is up against four rivals for the seat: Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and state senators Erin Houchin and Brent Waltz, along with engineer Rob Hall, a local Tea Party leader. All the candidates are competing as solid conservatives.
But Hollingsworth might pull off a primary win Tuesday, not least because he has spent freely on television advertisements touting his success as a businessman and his claim to be a political outsider. No independent, public polls are available.
In a rare interview given during this election cycle, to a local television station, Hollingsworth deflected accusations that he is a carpetbagger. Television ads aired by his rivals have called him that, dubbing him Tennessee Trey.
"I am a Hoosier. I am a proud Hoosier. I have partnered with Hoosiers to create companies. My customers are Hoosiers. My vendors are Hoosiers. My friends are Hoosiers. My family members are Hoosiers. I am a proud Hoosier," he told WTHR of Indianapolis.
Hollingsworth, who runs Hollingsworth Capital Partners, a company that buys, sells and leases warehouses, has vastly outspent his rivals in the race, mostly using the $1.3 million he himself has lent or contributed to the campaign.
But his campaign is also helped by Indiana Jobs Now, a super PAC funded entirely by his father, Joe Hollingsworth Jr., according to Federal Election Commission records. It has spent $500,000, almost all on ads attacking Hollingsworth’s opponents.
Joe Hollingsworth Jr. is a well-known Tennessee businessman who also buys, sells and leases warehouses. Both the father's and son’s companies share the same address in Clinton, according to Tennessee business records.
In an interview earlier in April, Trey Hollingsworth said he did not know anything about the then-$221,000 that Indiana Jobs Now had spent on his behalf.
That was greeted with some skepticism by Houchin. “I'm not accusing him of illegal coordination,” the Senator said at a public meeting, “but I think he knows, because it could only be himself, his family or his close associates who are funneling the additional resources into a super PAC.”
Zoeller told The Associated Press that he would leave any determination on the legality of the super PAC to FEC regulators.
“It's not a surprise Trey's father is going to do what he can, independently and legally, to help his son," Hollingsworth's campaign manager Rachel Jacobs, a former executive director of the Indiana GOP, said in response to a question about the contributions.
His rivals are quick to bring up the fact that Hollingsworth has lived in the district only a short time.
"He's made a lot of being an outsider which, in some respects, is deceptive," Zoeller told the AP. "He's an outsider to our community, state and Hoosier sensibility.”
Houchin struck back yesterday after being accused in a television ad of hiking taxes during her time in the state Senate. “This is a completely false representation of my record ... I don't appreciate the lies being told about me,” she wrote in a Facebook post, “but I guess you can't expect much from a guy who can't even remember where he lived before moving to Indiana a few months ago. We'll make it easy. Was it Tennessee or Washington D.C.?”
It was a reference to Hollingsworth being asked where his residence was prior to moving to Indiana. “I’ll have to go back,” he told the Indianapolis Star, “and check the record.”
May 2, 11:13 EDT
Correction: An earlier version of this article omitted a congressional candidate in Indiana’s 9th District. He is Rob Hall.