by Maureen Nelson Faul
Last night was the final primary debate held for the Republican candidates wanting to run for a US Senate seat for Indiana next Tuesday. Most political junkies are aware of some of each of the campaigns’ differences, while most of the state’s voters likely are not aware at all. The debate was held in the studio at the Indianapolis public broadcast station WFYI, sponsored by the Indiana Debate Commission, and moderated by Indy Politics publisher Abdul-Hakim Shabazz. All three candidates were present, and onset left to right; Luke Messer, Todd Rokita, and Mike Braun.
As a fairly informed voter, generally speaking, I’m watching for clear differences between the three candidates. Abdul opened the debate with a solid, straight-forward outline for the hour. There were a couple of moments of levity throughout the event, but the men on the set all have a lot on the line. Messer and Rokita have invested and given up their congressional seats and Braun, the self-proclaimed outsider choosing not to don a suit or tie, has spent loads of cash, brought up several times by his opponents trying to “buy a Senate seat” spending a whopping six million dollars. The stakes are high, as each wants the chance to unseat the first-term sitting Democrat Joe Donnelly.
An unavoidable impression early in the debate was the frequency of mentioning President Trump … honestly, I gave up counting of how many times each of them said, Trump. Each candidate wanted the viewers to know they are a Trump ally and the “true conservative” (that is a whole other discussion for later). None of the three fully answered the question to cite any specific policy differences they had from President Trump.
The question of the tone of this campaign actually gave more opportunity to attack and took time away from discussing federal debt, national security and many important ideas.
Messer, Rokita, and Braun all took hard swipes at the other right out of the gate, even in the introduction statements. Braun gave the most personal background, but what I wanted to hear was more specific policy ideas each had and less of the repeated campaign points. It was frustrating to sift through the repeated accusations that Braun is not a true Republican, Messer doesn’t live in Indiana and is a ‘Never Trumper’, or Rokita has yard sign issues.
After watching the debate, I am still undecided, but thankful for the opportunity to see and hear from the candidates in a long format, not a 30-second campaign ad.
In the next seven days, hopefully, voters will invest some time researching the candidates’ websites and vote their values.
Maureen is a long-time Republican and worked for former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. She is a lifelong Hoosier, born in Bloomington, raised in Washington Township in Marion County and has a B.A. from Indiana University.