Senate race mike braun wins gop primary in upset over 2 congressmen gas tax by state


Throughout the campaign, Braun argued that Messer and Rokita were nearly indistinguishable career politicians. In one of the campaign’s most memorable advertisements, he carried cardboard cutouts of his opponents around his hometown of Jasper, where voters struggled to tell them apart.

Much of the campaign’s vitriol was fueled by Rokita, who embraced Trump’s brash rhetorical style and often used derogatory nicknames to refer to his opponents. His campaign even authored a children’s book in the style of Dr. Seuss to attack Messer for residing in Washington, D.C. His style rubbed some voters and many Indiana GOP establishment figures the wrong way.

Messer, on the other hand, tried to rise above the fray early in the campaign, but was quickly dragged into the pattern of attacks and counter attacks that came to define the race. He was the darling of Indiana’s Republican establishment, but it became clear Tuesday night that wasn’t necessarily an asset. He also holds the fifth-ranking leadership position among Republicans in the U.S. House.

“Politics sometimes offers life lessons,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said on Twitter. “Todd Rokita and Luke Messer had a college rivalry that continued all the way to tonight’s #INsen primary. Now they’ve destroyed each other’s chances, allowing a third candidate to win. Better for pols to bury the hatchet — but not in each other.”

With the primary behind them, Republicans are hoping that the negativity of the race doesn’t hurt Braun. While he entered the race after his opponents, scrutiny increased as he outspent his opponents and came to be viewed as the frontrunner.

And stories by the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette and the Associated Press have raised questions about his distribution and logistics business practices, including his use of government subsidies, the importing of auto parts from overseas, lawsuits from employees who say they were underpaid or otherwise mistreated and dozens of trucking safety violations.

But ultimately, Republican voters chose an outsider with business experience over two competitors with longer tenures in government and politics. The question is whether hard feelings from the race will linger and depress Republican enthusiasm in November.

Still, party leaders expressed enthusiasm about Braun’s nomination. Vice President Mike Pence, who maintains a major influence in the Indiana GOP, called to congratulate Braun, and Gov. Eric Holcomb texted him from a trade mission to Israel.

“It’s been a hard-fought primary, with three great candidates putting their names forward," Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer said, "but it’s now time for Hoosier Republicans to come together and work as one team to defeat Democrat Joe Donnelly and give Hoosiers another conservative voice in the U.S. Senate."

Democrats, however, plan to continue pounding Braun. American Bridge, a Democratic Super PAC, released a new ad within moments of Braun’s victory. It features video of Rokita and Messer accusing him of buying a Senate seat and asserting that voters should not trust him.

“With no more childish primary antics to hide behind, Rep. Braun will be forced to run on his record of self-dealing and using the power of the Statehouse to enrich himself — like when he carved out a tax break for himself while repeatedly raising taxes on Hoosiers — and voters will hold him accountable in November," he said.