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Earlier today on Twitter, Adam Kirsch asked me the following question:
Hey @trevorfoughty, has an Incumbent Governor of Indiana ever been successfully primaried?
— Adam Kirsch (@adamdkirsch) April 16, 2015
The technical answer to that question is no. But when Indiana rewrote the state constitution in 1851, governors were limited to one four-year term, and that wasn’t amended until 1970 when they were allowed to run for two four-year terms. Before 1851, governors could run for two three-year terms, but there weren’t primary elections for incumbents to run in: They were chosen at party nominating conventions by a small group of delegates.
If we construe the question to mean only primary elections, then the answer is no. But if we include nominating conventions, the answer is yes: [pollink pid=”13″] had the misfortune of being elected in 1837, the year a major financial crisis hit the country and ushered in a recession that would last through the mid-1840’s. When he ran for renomination at the Whig State Convention in 1840, he was defeated by [pollink pid=”15″]. He’s the only Indiana governor to lose a renomination contest, but again, the sample size doesn’t cover all 199 years of state history.
Coincidentally, while Wallace is the only governor to lose a renominating contest, Bigger is the only duly-elected governor to [elexlink year=”1843″ office=”1″ type=”1″]lose a general election when he ran for re-election in 1843[/elexlink]. Two other sitting governors have lost ([pollink pid=”47″] and [pollink pid=”105″]), but both were lieutenant governors who ascended to the office upon the death of their predecessors. Again, our sample size here is a bit limited since governors couldn’t usually run for a second term.