-- A little-known state lawmaker hopes to upend Indiana’s already
contentious GOP Senate primary by plunging roughly $800,000 of his own money
into his campaign.
Besides his own
contribution, state Rep. Mike Braun has raised more than $200,000 from
donors, including many he knows through his automotive supply business,
since announcing his candidacy in early August, his campaign told The
Associated Press. Braun says the totals show he can compete in the race,
which has drawn a handful of candidates, including two sitting Republican
"That was done in a
month and a half,” said Braun. “It exceeded my expectations.”
Republican race will determine who will face Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in
the 2018 general election. The primary isn’t until May, but it has already
drawn national attention due to a bitter feud between Reps. Todd Rokita and
The two personally
attacked each other before either officially entered the race. At different
points each has accused the other of being “unhinged.”
worry that if it continues, the two will inflict so much damage that neither
would have a good chance of defeating Donnelly, who is considered one of the
most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election and is a major GOP target.
That’s where Braun
sees an opening.
“One reason people
are listening to me is the tone of the race, as exhibited by the two of them
-- and I think especially Todd Rokita, who I think has been throwing most of
the punches,” Braun said. “I think that general disappointment with the way
discourse unfurls is out there.”
Messer and Rokita,
who have served in Congress for more than five years, have far bigger war
chests than Braun. As of the end of June, Rokita reported having $2.3
million on hand, while Messer had about $2 million.
But when adding
Braun’s own investment to the amount he raised from donors since August, he
has on hand roughly the same amount Rokita raised last quarter. That’s a sum
that is also far greater that the $578,000 Messer posted for the same
Both Rokita and
Messer’s campaign declined to release preliminary fundraising numbers for
the recently concluded quarter when asked Tuesday.
candidates are relatively rare in Indiana, though Republican Rep. Trey
Hollingsworth, a Tennessee-native who moved to the state to run for
Congress, relied on his father’s vast wealth to win a southern Indiana seat
What remains to be
seen is if Braun’s initial infusion to build up his campaign will convince
donors to take a chance on him, too, or how much more of his own money he is
willing to sink into the race.
that without ample money it doesn’t “matter how well people may like you,”
your message “won’t be heard by voters when it really counts.”
Braun’s auto supply
business, Meyer Distributing, spans the U.S. But it’s unclear what his net
worth is. His financial disclosure with Indiana General Assembly doesn’t
include it, and he was granted an extension on mandatory financial paperwork
that all candidates must file with the Senate.
The Jasper native
was elected to the Legislature in 2014 after decades in the private sector.
While relatively new to elected office, Braun cites his background in
business as one of his assets.
He also took a dig
at both Messer and Rokita, whose political careers date to the early 2000s.
“I’m not beholden
to anybody,” he said, vowing to “speak independently” and vote in the Senate
“how Hoosiers want you to vote.”
“I’m from the
trenches of conservatism, where you’re living and doing,” Braun said. He
contrasted that with Rokita and Messer, “talking a good game while nothing