A southern Indiana State Representative has confirmed he will run for the United States Senate seat currently held by Democrat Senator Joe Donnelly. District 63 Representative Mike Braun of Jasper says he intends to formally enter the race on Monday. He says the decision comes following months of discussions with fellow Republicans around the state.
"I've been getting excellent feedback," said Braun. "I wanted to see if there would be an opportunity for a third option in terms of fund raising and message and so forth. I have been out with several state reps spending time at county fairs and visiting courthouses."
Braun's entry into the Republican Senatorial Primary will put him into an already bruising if not formally declared race between Congressmen Todd Rokita and Luke Messer. The pair have been accusing each other of a negative campaign with each accusing the other of playing dirty.
"These guys (Rokita and Messer) have been going at one another tooth and claw and set kind of a negative tone to how they might conduct a campaign and that has encouraged Republican primary voters to look at what else is out there," said Braun.
Braun believes he brings a different type of candidate to the race.
"I've been getting encouragement for a couple of reasons," he said. "I am a guy who knows his way around politics but has made his career outside of it. I've built a successful business. I'm a problem solver with no political baggage to speak of."
Word that a local state representative is getting involved in the race was greeted warmly by local political officials.
"I think it is fantastic Mike Braun is jumping in," said Daviess County Republican Party Chair Jan Schuler-Hicks. "He is getting into a tough primary, but I think his business and legislative background will help him."
Both Braun and Schuler-Hicks believe the fact he is not part of the fighting among the candidates in Indianapolis will be positive come primary time.
"Part of being in a race like this, the attention will turn to whoever is doing well," said Braun. "I can say I am not a career politician, so they are going to have that around their necks as much as the manure they are spreading around. I think the electorate is still looking for people with a fresh point of view and a different background."
"The electorate is tired of the negative campaigning," added Schuler-Hicks. "They want to hear what candidates are about and what they can do for Indiana. The candidate that does that will come out on top."
One reason Braun says he is entering the race so early is so he can get started raising money on what will probably be a very expensive primary that will also run into a pricey general election.
"It will be expensive," said Braun. "Those guys have both been raising money through lobbyists in D.C. One reason they delayed declaring is that most folks won't donate to a campaign for a different job. I'm going to have to spend a lot of time raising money and I'll probably have to put some of my own skin in the game too. I'll work hard. If you can't compete raising funds, even someone with a bad message can defeat you."
With the dysfunction that appears to be in the headlines daily in Washington D.C., Braun believes being an outsider will make him a better candidate to beat the incumbent Democrat Senator Joe Donnelly in the fall.
"He is going to be difficult to beat," said Braun. "I make that more likely when you look at the choice of two people whose recent past has been in D.C. The best way to have a chance against Donnelly is to have a message and messenger outside of D.C. politics. He will be tough to unseat, but I hope to resonate among folks wanting someone from the private sector that knows his way around government that isn't looking to make a career of it and is not beholden to special interests."
What about District 63?
With the incumbent heading into a race for the U.S. Senate the District 63 House Seat will become open in the 2018 election. The district covers much of Dubois, Daviess and Martin Counties. For several years local Democrat Dave Crooks held the seat. Mark Messmer, a Republican, held the seat until he ran for state senate. Representative Braun is finishing out a second term.
"We have begun searching for a candidate for the District 63 seat," said Daviess County Republican Party Chair Jan Schuler-Hicks. "I have already begun working with my fellow party chairmen in the other counties to field a candidate and we have already had some people inquire about it. I think we may have two or three candidates by the time the primary rolls around in the spring."