This article first appered in Herald Bulletin.
ANDERSON — The chairman of the Madison County Republican Party has endorsed Todd Rokita for the party’s nomination to oppose incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly.
Russ Willis announced Wednesday that he is endorsing Rokita for the nomination. Rokita, Luke Messer, Mike Braun and Mark Hurt are all declared candidates for the May primary election.
“I believe Rokita is the best candidate,” Willis said. “He has won two statewide races and did an excellent job as Secretary of State.”
Since the campaign’s outset, Rokita, Messer and Braun have been engaged in a war of words that has at times become feisty.
Willis said he is not concerned that the negative campaigning leading up to the primary election will not carry over to the fall race against Donnelly.
“People recognize that they will go at each other,” he said. “It’s a part of the process and at times will get ugly.
“People have short memories,” Willis said.
Kyle Hupher, chairman of the Indiana State Republican Party, said the attacks taking place between the candidates is part of what happens during a primary campaign.
Hupher said the party will have a strong candidate to run against Donnelly, who is seeking a second term in office.
He said the money spent in the primary is only a fraction of what the general election campaign will cost.
“People won’t tend to forget,” Hupher said. “It’s better to get the issues out on the table now.”
The primary campaign is expected to cost $6 million to $8 million for the Rokita, Messer and Braun camps.
The projected cost for the 2018 general election is in the $100 million range.
The Politico website has already labeled the Indiana GOP primary the “nastiest” in the nation.
Messer has come under attack by the Rokita campaign for selling his house in Indiana and moving to the Washington, D.C. area.
Rokita has been criticized for his management style.
Braun has labeled both Messer and Rokita as career politicians.
“That tax came when the state has a $2 billion surplus,” Rokita said.
He said Braun’s brother, Steve, the former head of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, has donated to his campaign.
Steve Braun has announced he is running for the 4th Congressional District nomination to replace Rokita.
Rokita said Braun’s company is distributing automotive parts from China and foreign companies that are costing Hoosiers jobs.
“The campaign has started early because you’re running against an incumbent,” Rokita said. “Joe Donnelly has voted with avowed socialist (Bernie Sanders) 80 percent of the time. He is not representing Hoosier values.
“Running for the Senate is not something on your bucket list,” he continued. “I’m the best candidate to beat Joe Donnelly with the highest name identification and an actual record of accomplishment.”