April 5, 2024

GOP candidates seek to stand out in Indiana's first competitive gubernatorial primary in 20 years

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The six Republicans running for Indiana governor in 2024 are, clockwise from left: Brad Chambers, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, former Attorney General Curtis Hill, Jamie Reitenour and Eric Doden. - Brandon Smith / IPB News

The six Republicans running for Indiana governor in 2024 are, clockwise from left: Brad Chambers, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, former Attorney General Curtis Hill, Jamie Reitenour and Eric Doden.

Brandon Smith / IPB News

Indiana’s first competitive gubernatorial primary in 20 years features six Republicans who, despite agreeing on many of the issues, are trying to differentiate themselves from their opponents.

The campaign actually began nearly three years ago, when Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden launched his bid. Since then, he’s been raising money — key in the most expensive primary in state history — and unveiling detailed policy plans.

And those policies, Doden said, are what set him apart from his opponents.

“We’re the only one with a plan for zero-cost adoption, to help our 13,000 kids in foster care get in loving homes and not just pay for the adoption, but pay for the expensive after care that can often cause families to struggle financially,” Doden said.

But while the former head of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation had a head start, Doden’s not the only candidate with detailed policy proposals. The most recent entrant into the race, Brad Chambers, has been rolling out his vision for Indiana’s future.

Much of the pitch from Chambers, who’s also a former head of the IEDC, revolves around a central message: he’s the candidate in the mold of former governor Mitch Daniels.

“Having an outsider’s view of challenges is super important. I think there’s clarity in that, there’s creativity in that,” Chambers said. “When you’re in the system, it’s hard to see the problems in the system.”

Several of the candidates have tried to claim outsider status in this race. But the only one who’s never run for office before and never worked in government is Jamie Reitenour.

Reitenour’s campaign is faith-focused, as she said she was called to be Indiana’s governor and is guided by the Bible’s book of Nehemiah.

“It says that the walls have been broken down and the gates have been burned with fire,” Reitenour said. “And so, what I bring to the table is a very real perspective on what’s taking place in our nation right now.”

Reitenour said the country is in a “spiritual battle,” has a “moral crisis” and is in a debate between socialism and capitalism.

READ MORE: What do I need on Election Day? Indiana’s 2024 primary is May 7
 

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She’s likely the most conservative candidate in the field — but former Attorney General Curtis Hill likes to argue that he’s the candidate with the most proven conservative record.

Hill, whose law license was temporarily suspended while in office when the Indiana Supreme Court said he criminally battered four women, particularly highlights his fight against many of current Gov. Eric Holcomb’s COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

“Folks have really become awakened to the idea that the status quo can be very dangerous if you don’t pay attention to the world around you,” Hill said. “So, I think freedom and maintaining our freedom and our ability to do what we want to do is really first and foremost in the mind of Hoosiers.”
 


The candidate who arguably represents that status quo most is Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, who’s been Holcomb’s governing partner for more than seven years.

She’s tried to distance herself a bit from the administration she’s served in, saying she would’ve done things very differently under COVID-19. But her pitch to voters is also rooted in her longtime government service.

“And what sets me apart from the opponents that I’m running against is I am the only one that is proposing a tax cut for Hoosiers, by eliminating Indiana’s state income tax,” Crouch said.

That tax cut has been the tentpole of Crouch’s campaign — one each of the other candidates has attacked as unrealistic, though each of them also says they’d look to reduce taxes as much as possible.

The only candidate without many detailed policy proposals is also largely considered the frontrunner, U.S. Mike Braun (R-Ind.). For someone who’s spent more than a decade in elected office, from school board to state legislator to U.S. senator, Braun fashions himself an outsider in the mold of former President Donald Trump, who’s endorsed him in the race.

“The issues are going to be less ideological here,” Braun said. “It’s like running the biggest business in our state, now. And when you’ve got 30 agencies, you’ve got to know how to handle personnel. I mean, I did that for a living before I got to the Senate.”

Whichever message resonates best, most of the candidates won’t have trouble spreading it. Braun, Chambers, Crouch and Doden each entered 2024 with more than $1 million in their campaign accounts, and they’ve each raised hundreds of thousands or millions more this year just in large contributions.
 


Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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