NewsPublic Affairs / March 9, 2018

Rokita Declines Primary Debate Hosted By Nonpartisan Commission

Rep. Todd Rokita during a February debate for the GOP Senate primary race, sponsored by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity-Indiana. - Barbara Brosher/WTIU

Rep. Todd Rokita during a February debate for the GOP Senate primary race, sponsored by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity-Indiana.

Barbara Brosher/WTIU

U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg) won’t participate in a GOP primary debate organized by the nonpartisan Indiana Debate Commission.

The commission announced Friday the televised debate will take place April 30 between U.S. Rep. Luke Messer (R-Shelbyville) and former state representative Mike Braun. Rokita, the third person vying to challenge Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly this fall, declined the invitation.

The commission has hosted 18 debates for statewide elections in Indiana over the group’s 10-year history. Rokita is the first candidate to skip one of the commission’s debates.

The commission says Rokita’s campaign cited scheduling conflicts, and said the Republican lawmaker will only participate in debates organized and moderated by conservative Republicans.

Commission President Gerry Lanosga says the commission wants to provide voters with as much information as possible.

“Our goal is to provide as much information to as wide an audience as possible,” Lanosga says. “You know, our goal is to have every candidate who is on the ballot participating in our events, and to the extent that that doesn’t happen then I think the voters are cheated to some degree.”

Lanosga says the campaign indicated if Rokita gets the GOP nomination, he will participate in debates leading up to the general election in November.

All three Republican candidates participated in a debate in February sponsored by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity-Indiana.

Primary Debate Details:

  • Monday, April 30 at 7 p.m, televised on public stations throughout the state.
  • The debate will be moderated by conservative commentator Abdul-Hakim Shabazz.
  • Voters will be able to submit questions for the debate on the commission’s website.

Becca Costello contributed to this report.

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