INDIANAPOLIS – U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth became the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate on Saturday, without going through a primary election — a method that brings benefits as well as drawbacks.

Ellsworth was chosen over Bob Kern of Marion County by the Democratic Central Committee.

Ellsworth and the Republican candidate, former U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, are both seeking the seat held by Democrat Evan Bayh, who said in February that he wouldn’t seek re-election.

Republicans have criticized Ellsworth as being anointed without turning to voters, while Democrats say they had no choice. Bayh’s announcement came one day before the deadline for candidates to submit the 4,500 signatures needed to get on the primary ballot.

Avoiding a primary may offer Ellsworth some advantages: He didn’t have to spend money on commercials, and there were no Democratic challengers lining up to attack him.

But a primary is also a chance to experiment with campaign strategies, determine what issues voters respond to and hone your message, said James McCann, a Purdue University political science professor.