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Businessman Makes Indiana Senate Primary Three-Person Race

Mike Braun making first statewide TV ad buys in the race

Screenshot of Mike Braun for U.S. Senate ad.
Screenshot of Mike Braun for U.S. Senate ad.

In what’s been largely characterized as a contest between two Republican members of Congress, a businessman with the ability to self-fund has made the first statewide TV and radio buys in the Indiana Senate primary.

Former state Rep. Mike Braun’s $329,000 three-week radio and TV buy signals he’s making this a three-person race. He announced his campaign in August. 

The TV ad will air in the Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and South Bend broadcast media markets beginning Tuesday through Dec. 1, with a week off for Thanksgiving.

Braun is the CEO of Meyer Distributing, an Indiana company that distributes automotive and truck accessories. The TV spot plays up Braun’s business experience and credentials as a “conservative outsider.”

“I built a successful national company here in my hometown of Jasper, and it’s time we had some Hoosier know-how in the Senate, rather than more career politicians,” Braun says in the ad. 

The radio ad opens and closes with the words, “Businessman. Outsider. Conservative.”

“Mike grew up in Jasper, Indiana, but after business school at Harvard University, he turned down jobs on Wall Street to come home and build a national company just steps from where he grew up,” the narrator says.

Braun resigned his state legislative seat earlier this month to focus on his Senate bid. He loaned $850,000 of his own money to his campaign in the third quarter — ending with a higher third-quarter haul than both GOP Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer. But Braun raised only about $200,000 during the quarter.

Messer ended the quarter with $2.41 million in the bank. Rokita wasn’t far behind with $2.37 million.

Braun expects he’ll need between $4 million and $6 million for the primary. He’s backed by a super PAC run by the same New Hampshire-based strategist who oversaw a super PAC supporting freshman Rep. Trey Hollingsworth’s bid for the 9th District last year. And Braun could still benefit from the support of outside conservative groups, which have yet to endorse in the race.

A handful of other Republicans are vying for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in 2018.

Like Rokita and Messer, Braun is a graduate of Wabash College. While the two members of Congress are attacking each other, Braun is hoping to stick out as the candidate who’s not in Washington. If he were to win the primary and defeat Donnelly, he would not move his family to Washington, he has said.

Democrats attacked Braun on Monday over his buy. 

“Rep. Braun seems to believe that his wallet should be the most important factor in Indiana’s Senate race, and today’s ad is simply more proof that he’s intent on buying himself a Senate seat,” state Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said in a statement. 

“Rep. Braun may claim that he’ll ‘get Washington moving again,’ but he’s not fooling the Hoosiers who can’t even get moving in their cars without paying Rep. Braun’s new gas tax that has become one of the largest tax increases in Hoosier history,” Zody added.

Braun voted for a 10-cent gas tax in the legislature that GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law earlier this year. 

Braun’s brother, Steve Braun, is running for Rokita’s open House seat in the 4th District and has given the maximum individual contribution to Rokita’s Senate campaign. 

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