GOP Senate Primary Campaign Heats Up

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By Adrianna Pitrelli
TheStatehouseFile.com

 INDIANAPOLIS — Another of the seven GOP candidates in the race to replace Sen. Joe Donnelly launched his first campaign ad six months ahead of the primary election, saying he’s “tired of watching Congress do nothing.”

Braun, a former Republican state representative from Jasper, debuted his first commercial Tuesday as part of his push to win the Senate. As the CEO and founder of Meyer Distributing, a nationwide auto parts distribution company, Braun is running from a business perspective.

“I’ve spent my life building a business and creating jobs,” Braun said in a statement. “I am running for U.S. Senate because we need leaders who understand the real consequences of the failure of our federal government and are capable of delivering solutions for Hoosiers on issues like health care and tax reform.”

Braun is seeking to become the GOP front runner who will race to replace Donnelly, a Democrat finishing his first term in the Senate. Donnelly, who is seeking reelection, so far is unopposed in the Democratic primary..

Luke Messer and Todd Rokita — both Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives — have been more high profile than the other candidates running in the primary.

The other candidates in the race so far are Terry Henderson, a businessman who works at Down AgroSciences; Andrew Takami, director of Purdue Polytechnic New Albany; and Mark Hurt, attorney and former advisor to Sen. Dan Coats. None of those candidates has more than $100,000 on hand.

Braun put $800,000 of his own money into the campaign at the end of September, giving him the opportunity to buy ads to make himself better known. Federal records show he raised an additional $200,000 from other sources, leaving a little more than $1 million in the bank.

“You can be the best candidate in the world but if you don’t have money to introduce yourself to voters or to tell voters why you’re running, you have no way to get to them,” said Nathan Gonzales, editor of Inside Elections. “You need money to communicate your message.”

Because of the $800,000 Braun donated to his campaign, he’s been able to communicate his message to a wider audience. Rokita and Messer, who have been sharply critical of each other, both released ads earlier in the campaign.

Braun’s ad didn’t mention other politicians, but rather explained his background as a businessman and how he wants to “get Washington moving again.”

Rokita’s ad, however, call out other politicians directly. The ad targeted Donnelly by accusing him of being part of the “rigged” system and took subtle digs at Messer.

Like Braun, Messer’s ad doesn’t directly attack other politicians. However, he attacked Rokita in an email blast saying he was “tired of Todd Rokita lying about my family,” which came after Messer relocated his family to Washington, D.C. following his 2012 election.

Meanwhile, Braun is getting outside help. A super PAC, Our Indiana Voice, announced it is forming to support Braun’s candidacy for the Senate, saying currently politicians in Washington, D.C. are not getting work done. The PAC is being run by veteran political operative David Carney.

Carney, a political strategist from New Hampshire, also oversaw a super PAC that spent $1.5 million to help Republican Rep. Trey Hollingsworth win Indiana’s 9th Congressional District in 2016, USA Today reported.

“Mike Braun brings the business sense and outside the beltway thinking that people are looking for,” Carney said in a statement. “It’s time to send someone to the Untied States Senate who will be the voice of the people, not the special interests.”

Yet while Braun pushes to win the GOP seat in the hotly contested Senate race, Donnelly — the incumbent — continues to add more cash to his war chest.

In early October, he reported receiving $1.3 million in donations from July to the end of September — giving him a total of $4.6 million cash on hand.

During the same time period, Messer raised $735,000 giving him a total of $2.4 million, and Rokita raised about $450,000, putting him at about $2.4 million.

Political observers across the country have identified Donnelly as one of the most vulnerable incumbents. Voters elected Donald Trump for president by nearly 19 points and Donnelly is only one of 10 Democrats in the Senate who come from states won by Trump.

Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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