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It took two years longer than he expected but Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. now has an actual shot at serving in Congress.

The five-term leader of Lake County’s most populous city won Indiana’s Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate Tuesday. He will face U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Libertarian James Sceniak in the Nov. 8 general election for a six-year term.

Both McDermott and Young were unopposed in their party’s primary contest after their potential opponents were denied ballot slots by the Indiana Election Commission in March for failing to obtain the 500 signatures needed in each of the state’s nine congressional districts to qualify for the race.

Despite his guaranteed primary victory, McDermott hasn’t been taking it easy. He and his team already have campaigned in 67 of the state’s 92 counties, including repeat trips to many of Indiana’s largest cities and towns.

McDermott also attracted national attention last month by smoking marijuana, on video, in a campaign ad recorded in Illinois, where marijuana is legal, in an effort to cut across party lines and reach Hoosier voters who value freedom over Republican social policies.

Federal campaign finance records show Young has a commanding lead over McDermott in terms of fundraising with more than $5 million in the bank compared to less than $1 million for the Democrat.

That huge pile of money so far has enabled Young to largely ignore McDermott, instead of responding to McDermott’s repeated condemnation of Young’s decisions to vote against billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief and infrastructure funding for Indiana, its communities and schools.

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At the same time, Young lacks the endorsement of Republican former President Donald Trump, which could depress GOP turnout in the fall election, though Young’s campaign suggested Monday they don’t need Trump to win.

McDermott is not so sure. He’s confident Young’s expected strategy of relying on high-priced television ads to sell himself to voters, instead of holding town hall meetings and speaking to Hoosiers where they are, ultimately will backfire.

“I tell you what, if I’m your senator I’m going to go to every district — I don’t care if it’s a Republican district or a Democratic district — and I’m going to work hard there, and if I don’t win that district in 2022 when I become your senator, I’m going to win it six years later because they’re going to respect me because I’m not afraid to tell you the truth,” McDermott said.

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McDermott last competed in 2020 for Northwest Indiana’s Democratic U.S. House nomination. He lost by 4,149 votes in a 14-candidate field to now-U.S. Rep. Frank J. Mrvan, D-Highland.

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