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Indiana GOP Scrambles to Replace Deceased Candidate After Shock Primary Win

 June 17, 2024

The Indiana Republican Party is preparing to appoint a new GOP candidate for the 7th Congressional District after the primary was unexpectedly won by Jennifer Pace, who had passed away two months prior to the election.

The caucus to select a new candidate to take the dead woman's spot will be held on June 22, and the chosen candidate will face incumbent Rep. André Carson in November, as the Washington Examiner reports.

Unexpected Primary Win

On May 7, Jennifer Pace won the GOP primary for Indiana’s 7th Congressional District with 31.2% of the vote. This victory came as a surprise to many because Pace had passed away on March 6 due to a heart attack. Despite her death, her name remained on the ballot, leading to an unusual situation for the Indiana GOP.

Indiana GOP officials are now tasked with selecting a replacement candidate. The selection process will occur through a caucus on June 22, in compliance with Indiana Codes IC 3-10-8-7.5 and 3-13-1-8. This procedure ensures that the party can fill the ballot vacancy appropriately.

Selection Process and Candidates

The upcoming caucus is critical as it will determine who will represent the GOP in the November election against incumbent Rep. André Carson. The 7th Congressional District, located in Marion County, is known for favoring Democrats, making the selection of a strong candidate crucial for the GOP.

Catherine Ping, who received 30% of the vote in the primary, is one of the key contenders for the position. Ping has a long history of campaigning for the 7th District seat and is seen as a viable candidate by many within the party.

Another primary candidate, Phillip Davis, who received 26% of the vote, has openly expressed his support for Ping. “I imagine the party will appoint Cat Ping to fill the position (if you didn’t know, the winner Jenn Pace is deceased). I support Cat wholeheartedly and hope she takes down Andre Carson. It’s time for him to go home,” Davis stated.

Other Candidates and Considerations

Gabe Whitley, who garnered 13.2% of the vote, has withdrawn from consideration for the special election. In his statement, Whitley emphasized his decision to step back from the political race, saying, “After deep consideration and talking with my supporters I will not be running in the special election. The voters deserve the dead person to represent them. I am young and I will focus on my life, my career and starting my own family.”

The replacement process follows a structured and legal framework to ensure that the party maintains its representation in the upcoming election. Griffin Reid, an Indiana GOP official, explained, “The Indiana GOP had 30 days after receiving official notice of a ballot vacancy to hold a caucus. In compliance with that, the caucus will be held on June 22nd.”

Historical Context of Deceased Candidates Winning Elections

This unusual situation is not without precedent. There have been other instances where deceased candidates have won elections. Notably, Rep. Donald Payne Jr. in New Jersey in 2024, Rep. Nick Begich in 1972, and Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan in 2000 all won their respective races posthumously.

The current scenario with Jennifer Pace adds to this list, highlighting the unique challenges political parties can face with unexpected developments. The upcoming caucus will play a crucial role in determining how the GOP moves forward in Indiana’s 7th Congressional District.

Challenges for the GOP in Marion County

Marion County’s tendency to favor Democratic candidates adds another layer of complexity for the GOP. The new candidate will need to build a strong campaign to compete effectively against Rep. André Carson, who has a well-established presence in the district.

Ping’s potential candidacy is viewed positively by some within the party due to her extensive campaigning experience. However, it remains to be seen how the voters will respond to the new candidate following the unusual circumstances of the primary.

The Indiana GOP is focused on ensuring a smooth transition and a robust campaign leading up to the November election. The outcome of the June 22 caucus will be pivotal in shaping the party’s strategy and efforts to reclaim the district.


The Indiana GOP is navigating an unprecedented situation following Jennifer Pace’s posthumous primary win for the 7th Congressional District.

With the caucus scheduled for June 22, the party aims to select a strong replacement candidate to compete against incumbent Rep. André Carson in the upcoming November election.

The race in Marion County, a Democratic stronghold, will be challenging, but the GOP hopes that a well-chosen candidate can make a significant impact.

Past instances of deceased candidates winning elections underscore the unpredictable nature of political campaigns and the importance of adaptability in the face of unexpected events.