Businessman Mike Braun, a former state representative, has won the Indiana Senate Republican primary, according to the Associated Press, marking an end to one of the nastiest primary races in the country.
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) May 9, 2018
Braun beat two other major candidates, Reps. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Luke Messer (R-IN), who spent most of the last year making vicious personal attacks on one another. For a full year, the two congressmen have been at each others’ throats.
Last spring, before either candidate even officially declared, Rokita attacked Messer’s wife for the thousands of dollars she’d been paid as a government contractor, which prompted Messer to say that Rokita was “lying about [his] family.” Rokita hit back, calling Messer “unhinged,” and then, not long after, someone leaked Politico an eight-page memo on the agonizing task of chauffeuring Rokita around his district.
More recently, Messer’s two decades-old drunk driving convictions have come to the forefront of the race, convictions he didn’t disclose when he replaced a state representative who was killed by a drunk driver.
Braun, however, has been self-funding his campaign and has made inroads as an outsider. In one ad, he carried around cutouts of Rokita and Messer and asked people on the street if they could tell them apart.
In another, he hit the two as the “swamp brothers,” labeling his rivals as “Todd the fraud” and “Luke the liberal.”
Some questioned whether Braun’s history voting for Democrats would come back to haunt him. While Braun has said he is a “lifelong conservative,” he has voted in Democratic primaries and CNN reported that Braun was listed in RNC voter data as a “hard Democrat” until at least 2012.
“Mike Braun raises taxes like a Democrat so it’s not a surprise he votes for Democrats, too,” a Rokita spokesperson said of the report.
As far as policy goes, however, the three candidates were nearly indistinguishable. All promised to support wholeheartedly President Trump should they be elected. Braun has pointed to his shared background with the president as proof he’s the best choice of the three.
Braun will now go on to face Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) in November’s general election. Donnelly is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbent Democrats, and he’s looking to hold his seat in a state Trump won in 2016 by 19 points.