As had been speculated upon, Indiana Sen. Mike Braun (R) yesterday filed a campaign committee with the Secretary of State’s office in Indianapolis, which is his first step toward foregoing re-election to a second term in the US Senate in order to become an open seat gubernatorial candidate
Incumbent Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) is ineligible to seek a third term under Indiana’s term limit law.
Mr. Braun’s action likely opens the first Senate seat in the 2024 election cycle, and the Senator’s ultimate successor will likely be identified in the Republican primary.
Sen. Braun was originally elected in 2018, beginning with defeating two sitting House members, then-Reps. Todd Rokita, who is now Indiana’s Attorney General, and Luke Messer, in the Republican primary.
As a business owner and former state Representative, Mr. Braun ran the consummate outsider’s race, which topped the two Congressmen he successfully labeled as Washington insiders. During that primary race, Mr. Braun carried with him a pair of life-size stand-ups of the two Representatives, and then conducted mock “interviews” of them at campaign stops. In this manner, he cleverly delivered his rhetorical points.
Once winning the Republican nomination, Mr. Braun unseated then-Sen. Joe Donnelly (D), 51-45%, in the general election to wrest the seat away from the Democrats. At this point, there is no mention of Sen. Braun leaving office early to campaign for Governor full-time, but this option could become a possibility as we move deeper into the next election cycle.
Sen. Braun will very likely face credible opposition in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Already venture capitalist Eric Doden (R) has announced his Senate candidacy. Other potential names already being bandied about include former two-term Gov. Mitch Daniels, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, retiring Congressman Trey Hollingsworth (R-Jeffersonville), and former state Senator and ex-Indianapolis mayoral candidate Jim Merritt. For the Democrats, the only announced candidate is Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick.
Since the Republican primary will be key to becoming the next Senator, we can expect a fierce intra-party battle. Already saying through a spokesman that he is considering running for the open statewide position is US Rep. Jim Banks* (R-Columbia City/Ft. Wayne), who was recently defeated in his bid to become House Majority Whip. Other names popping up are AG Rokita, Rep. Hollingsworth, and Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (R-Noblesville), who was just re-elected to a second term.
It is unclear whether term-limited Gov. Holcomb has any interest in running for the Senate, nor are there any Democratic names popping up at this early point in the newly launched game of political musical chairs.
The Indiana Senate seat is one of just eleven that Republicans will be risking in the 2024 election cycle, as the tables turn for the next election. The 2022 Senate map featured Republicans defending 21 seats, six of which were open, and having realistic offensive opportunities in only four races.
In 2024, it is the Democrats who are forced to defend the preponderance of seats, 23 to be exact, as compared to the Republicans’ eleven. This latter number also includes what will be a second Senate race in Nebraska. In addition to Sen. Deb Fischer (R) seeking re-election to a third term, a special election will be held to fill the balance of Sen. Ben Sasse’s (R) current term once he resigns in late January to become the President of the University of Florida.
Incoming Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen (R) will appoint a successor to Mr. Sasse once the resignation becomes official. The political tea leaves appear pointing toward outgoing Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) as the favorite for the Senate appointment.
The early prognostication suggests that Democrats could see competitive action in at least seven of their in-cycle 2024 seats, whereas all eleven Republican seats look to be either highly or relatively safe for the current incumbent. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) may be in the most competitive re-election situation, but he, too, would begin his re-election battle in strong position.
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