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The Journal Gazette

Monday, July 17, 2017 7:40 pm

Rokita names campaign finance team

Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th, announced Monday he has assembled a 60-member campaign finance team for a possible run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Joe Donnelly.

Four of the members are residents of northeast Indiana: medical device producer Nick Deeter of Warsaw; Daryle Doden, a former steel manufacturer from Auburn; restauranteur Pete Eshelman of Columbia City; and Columbia City resident Byron Lamm, co-founder of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation.

Others on the finance team include Lucas Oil Products leader Forest Lucas and his wife, Charlotte; former insurance company executive Steve Hilbert; and people from Illinois, California, Louisiana and California as well as Indiana. 

Rokita used the occasion to take a jab at Rep. Luke Messer, R-6th, who also is considering seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Donnelly in next year's general election. Rokita's campaign group, Hoosiers for Rokita, said in a news release that Rokita "massively outraised" Messer in the second quarter of this year and that Messer is "largely reliant" on money from political action committees while most of Rokita's contributions come from individuals.

"Only Todd Rokita is demonstrating the organizational and fundraising ability to defeat Joe Donnelly." Hoosiers for Rokita said.

In their most recent campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Rokita reported having $2.35 million in cash, and Messer reported having nearly $2.03 million. Rokita raised more than $1 million in the second quarter, while Messer raised more than $578,000.

Messer, meanwhile, said in a Monday email to supporters that Rokita "has spread lies and half-truths about my family, claiming we are not Hoosiers and attacking my wife’s legal career." 

Messer wrote that Rokita "will do and say almost anything to advance his political career. Apparently, truth or integrity won’t get in the way."

Messer went on to say he was born and raised in Indiana, owns a house in Greensburg and took his family to live and attend school in the Washington area on the advice of his House predecessor, Vice President Mike Pence.

Messer said his wife, Jennifer, is "a distinguished Indiana lawyer who has practiced in Indiana her entire legal career" despite Rokita's "distortions" concerning her work for the Fishers city government.

"It is simply sad that Todd Rokita would attempt to destroy my wife’s career for his own political gain," Messer wrote.