The three men battling it out to face Joe Donnelly in November were here in Fort Wayne. We’re two weeks away from the May 8 primary. The three republicans facing off for the party’s candidacy for U.S. Senate met in their second debate this month.
Even before Monday’s debate started, moderator Pat Miller called for more substance and less attacking. He may have gotten that, but that doesn’t mean jabs were absent from the night.
The debate was held at Allen County Republican’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner at the Ramada Fort Wayne Plaza Hotel and Conference Center. For the most part the candidates, Mike Braun and Congressmen Todd Rokita and Luke Messer see eye to eye on a lot of issues.
The first subject up for debate– gun control and school safety.
“I’m firmly behind our Second Amendment rights,” Rokita said. “I have an A rating from the NRA.”
“I’ll tell you when I talk to Second Amendment supporters around the state they’re offended by the idea that we can’t look out for the Second Amendment, and also protect our kids in schools,” Messer said.
“I think folks in Indiana look at their gun rights as sacrosanct because it’s right there in the Second Amendment,” Braun said.
When it comes to foreign policy candidates supported the proposed tariffs President Trump has threatened China with, even if it means a trade war. They all support President Trump’s promise of a border wall as well.
“I think President Trump is right on the mark,” Braun said.
“Any country worth living in, any sovereign nation deserves to have a border, a secure border,” Rokita said.
“We now have to deliver,” Messer said. “This is another example of I am who I say I am. I don’t just talk about securing the border I work with the President to do it.”
When setting themselves apart is when some of the attacks came. Messer was criticized for that catch phrase ‘I am who I say I am.’
“When someone has to repeatedly tell you that it’s a red flag, and the first sign he’s not,” Rokita said.
Braun was called a democrat. Rokita was criticized for his campaign sign that said the President endorses him.
“Todd Rokita was told last week from the Trump Administration to take down his advertisements because he’s faking support from the Trump campaign,” Messer said.
The three touted loudly what they think sets them apart. Braun, a former state representative, says he’s a businessman and not a career politician. He likens himself to Trump.
“Who do you think among us on the stage is going to be more like President Trump,” Braun asked. “Who has built their cred in the private sector? Who do you think has the pathway to be an independent thinker?”
“I’m the only one on stage tonight, and you can throw Joe Donnelly into that, who has never voted to raise your taxes and I never will,” Rokita said.
“I’m a pro life, pro Second Amendment conservative who supports President Trump,” Messer said. “That’s really important because the essence of the case we have to make against Joe Donnelly this fall is Joe Donnelly is not who he says he is.”
While some republicans in the audience have not decided who they’ll vote for, they all have the same goal as those on stage.
“Folks there want to hear how these three men will act in the next congress, the next US Senate position which on January 1, 2019 we will have a new U.S. Senator,” Allen County Republican Chairman Steve Shine said. “It certainly will not be Joe Donnelly.”
The panel for this debate was made up of six Indiana journalists including our own Brett Thomas.