Republican ticket for Senate becoming ‘overcrowded’

Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita discussion his plan to enter the Republican Senate primary Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, at Allen County Republican Party headquarters.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Republican Representative Todd Rokita is vying for a spot on the U.S. Senate. Rokita stopped the Allen County Republican Headquarters, where he announced his candidacy, Wednesday afternoon.

A campaign ad was released a day ahead of the announcement. The ad closely ties Rokita to President Trump and urges voters to take the “next step” by voting for Rokita to “defeat the elite.”

Mike Braun, a wealthy Republican state representative, announced Tuesday that he is also running. He and Rokita will face Representative Luke Messer in the primary.

The winner will try to unseat Senator Joe Donnelly, who is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year.

There is concern the Republican ticket could be overcrowded. Political Science Professor Mike Wolf said it could negatively impact their campaigns.

“You have a lot of internal party divisions that are raised,” said Wolf. “A lot of negative ads are run against each other. The eventual nominee will have that baggage carry in to the general election.”

Things have already started heating up between Messer and Rokita. The two have traded attacks and insults over the last several weeks.
However, Rokita said his focus is on Donnelly.

“I am trained on keeping this campaign focused on the issues and Joe Donnelly’s voting record,” he said. “In terms of the primary, that’s what primaries are for. They sort themselves out and I’m not worried about any of that.”

Jason Kneeland, a spokesman for Messer’s campaign spokesman released this statement today.

“We look forward to the campaign. Luke Messer is the only candidate in this race who will unite our party, beat Joe Donnelly, and help President Trump and Vice President Pence deliver results for Hoosiers.”

Donnelly also released a statement.

“As Congressman Rokita has said, we need hard workers representing our state in the Senate. Joe Donnelly has built his career on reaching across the aisle to find the best solutions for Hoosiers, and he’s worked every single day to strengthen his connection to the people he represents. He spends as much time as he can back home in Indiana when the Senate’s not in session because there’s no substitute for hearing Hoosiers’ concerns firsthand. This race will come down to whomever has a strong connection to Indiana—we’ve been glad to see that both Congressman Rokita and ourselves feel that Joe Donnelly is that candidate, and we appreciate his praise.”

Braun did not respond to requests for comment, Wednesday afternoon.