NewsPublic Affairs / January 14, 2018

Messer Wins State Party Straw Poll Of GOP Senate Candidates

Rep. Luke Messer (R-Shelbyville) speaks to the crowd of state party activists before the straw poll vote. - Tyler Lake/WTIU

Rep. Luke Messer (R-Shelbyville) speaks to the crowd of state party activists before the straw poll vote.

Tyler Lake/WTIU

Congressman Luke Messer emerged the victor Saturday of a straw poll of Republican U.S. Senate candidates.

Each of the six GOP Senate candidates delivered a short speech before 326 party activists in attendance cast their votes in the event organized by the Indiana Republican Party.

Rep. Messer (R-Shelbyville) won at 45 percent (147 votes). He calls the result “important momentum.”

“But there’s a whole lot of work to do between now and Election Day,” Messer says. “In a lot of ways, this is just the green flag to the four-month race before us.”

Fellow Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg), who came in second with 25 percent (82 votes), shrugged off the tally.

“Straw polls mean nothing… I’m the only one that’s been on the ballot twice statewide – again when polls matter, during real elections,” Rokita says.

Former state Rep. Mike Braun came in third at 11 percent (36 votes).

Kokomo attorney Mark Hurt (29 votes), Purdue administrator Andrew Takami (20 votes), and political activist Andrew Horning (12 votes) each earned less than 10 percent.

Rokita wasted no time in attacking his opponents in his speech prior to the straw poll.

That included a jab at Braun, who voted in Democratic primaries in several past elections.

“We know how to beat Democrats… what you don’t do is you don’t vote for them for 20 years your entire adult life,” Rokita says.

And as he has for months, Rokita took a shot at Messer, whose lives much of the year with his family near Washington, D.C.

“Ask Dick Lugar, ask Evan Bayh how important it is to live in the state and be amongst the people you serve even when you’re out in Washington, D.C.” Rokita says.

Messer waved aside Rokita’s attacks. But Braun countered with a jab of his own.

During Rokita’s speech, the congressman put on a Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” hat, while Braun says he’s the candidate truly following Trump’s outsider path.

“I don’t think you’re going to be able to flip on a hat and impress most voters,” Braun says. “That, to me, looks a little staged.”

Braun says he was pleased to earn more than 10 percent and argues he’s emerging as the best alternative to Messer and Rokita.

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