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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Braun speaks to employees of Master Spas on Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday, September 06, 2018 1:00 am

In visit to city, Braun cuts back on rhetoric

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Also

Site for debate set for Westville

The nonpartisan Indiana Debate Commission announced Wednesday that the U.S. Senate candidates will debate at 7 p.m. Oct. 8 at Purdue University Northwest in Westville.

The commission previously disclosed the date but not the time or site. It said all 415 public tickets had been claimed.

The debate among Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, Republican Mike Braun and Libertarian Lucy Brenton will be broadcast by C-SPAN and streamed live at the commission's website at indianadebatecommission.com.

In a departure from his TV ads and news releases, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Braun said Wednesday in Fort Wayne that the Democratic incumbent he hopes to unseat “is a good guy.”

Braun campaigned on the floor of the Master Spas manufacturing plant off North Hadley Road, two dozen employees half-circling him as reporters strained to hear over the din of machinery, tools and cooling fans.

“Make sure you look carefully at me and Joe Donnelly,” Braun instructed the workers. “Joe Donnelly is a good guy. He's just a guy that's made a career out of politics.”

Granger resident Donnelly was elected to the Senate in 2012 after six years in the House. Jasper resident Braun, who runs a nationwide auto parts distribution company, was a state lawmaker for three years.

“I don't think we send the cream of the crop” to Congress, Braun later told news media. “I think we send people that talk a good game, forget what they mentioned, and we have the collective mess that we've got. It has not snuck up on us; it's been here a long time.”

He contended that Donnelly “has had his campaign run by Chuck Schumer out of New York. And anybody in Jasper, any state legislator, will tell you that stuff is a bunch of lies and distortions.”

Democrat Schumer is the Senate minority leader.

“You cannot win a campaign by trying to tear someone else down. You've got to talk about what you're going to do to fix bona fide problems across this country – health care, education, infrastructure. I've got a lot of experience in all three of those areas,” said Braun, a former school board member.

But he, Donnelly and their surrogates have spent months attacking the opposite side in TV commercials and almost daily statements to news media. Their race is considered among a half-dozen close contests in the Nov. 6 general election that will determine whether Republicans can retain their slim Senate majority. 

Results of an NBC News/Marist poll released Wednesday afternoon showed Donnelly favored by 44 percent of likely Hoosier voters, Braun supported by 41 percent and Libertarian Lucy Brenton backed by 8 percent. The numbers were nearly identical for all registered voters.

Braun had billed his Fort Wayne visit as part of a three-city “Solutions Tour” this week.

“The only thing Rep. Braun is accomplishing on his lazy statewide 'tour' is reminding Hoosiers that they simply can't trust him to put them first,” Michael Feldman, spokesman for the Indiana Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Whether it's trying to strip protections from Hoosiers with pre-existing conditions or profiting from Chinese manufacturing at the expense of Hoosier workers, it's clear that Rep. Braun has never had Indiana's best interest at heart.”

At Master Spas, Brauntold employees about his “real-world experience” in building a family business where he has worked “side by side with my employees” and kept their health care costs down by shopping around for insurers and making sure everyone involved has “a little skin in the game” by assuming expenses. 

“There aren't many politicians that really like to take on big outfits like the health care industry. I will,” he said.

Braun asked his audience to be patient with the state infrastructure funding program approved by the General Assembly in 2017, when he was a state representative. The program increased the gasoline tax and vehicle fees.

“In the long run, you'll be happy,” Braun predicted.

A worker asked him a question about President Donald Trump, with whom Braun closely aligns.

“Sometimes his style is different from that of a Hoosier,” Braun said. He added, “I really believe the economy is booming because President Trump got in there.”

bfrancisco@jg.net