Former LaPorte, Indiana Mayor Blair Milo is challenging Democrat Rep. Frank Mrvan's seat in Indiana's 1st District, which encompasses much of Indiana's portion of Chicagoland. | Photo: Provided

LAPORTE, Ind. (AP) — A former Republican mayor in northwestern Indiana has started a campaign for the area’s congressional seat, signaling the GOP aims to make its most serious bid in decades in the district that’s long been a Democratic stronghold.

Former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo announced Friday that she would seek the Republican nomination in the 1st District to challenge Democratic Rep. Frank Mrvan, who won his first term in 2020 following the retirement of 18-term Democratic Rep. Pete Visclosky.

Milo is well connected with Indiana’s Republican hierarchy, having spent four years as Gov. Eric Holcomb’s secretary for career connections and talent until stepping down last June. She is a Navy veteran and won her first election as LaPorte’s mayor in 2011 at age 28 and was reelected in 2015.

The 1st District hugs Indiana’s Lake Michigan shoreline, taking in all of Lake and Porter counties and part of LaPorte County. For decades, Democrats have typically won there by large margins, but former President Donald Trump closed the gap by appealing to working class voters in the district that has some of the country’s largest steel mills.

Milo, who joins several lesser known Republicans in the May primary race, said she would appeal to voters worried about inflation and federal government overreach.

“Frustration with the results that we are, and we aren’t, getting out of Washington, D.C., and the desire for a different type of leadership and a different type of representation than we’ve had in years past,” Milo told The (Northwest Indiana) Times.

Mrvan won a crowded Democratic primary in 2020 after gaining endorsements from Visclosky and the United Steelworkers union.

Mrvan highlighted his position as co-chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus and support for steel tariffs in announcing his reelection campaign this week.

The Republican-dominated state Legislature kept the district largely unchanged in redrawing congressional maps effective for this year’s election as the redistricting focused on strengthening the GOP’s hold on a suburban Indianapolis district and maintaining the party’s 7-2 congressional delegation majority.

Political analysts found the 1st District was likely the most competitive in Indiana and it has appeared on some lists as a Republican target. With inflation and the persistence of the coronavirus pandemic pulling down President Joe Biden’s polling, national Republicans will be making a strong push to overturn the narrow majority Democrats hold in the U.S. House.

“When it comes to this race, Indiana Democrats are ready to go 110% to make sure the congressman is reelected because he understands those kitchen-table issues are what matters most to Hoosier families,” state Democratic Party spokesman Drew Anderson said.

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