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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, January 17, 2018 1:00 am

All 6 GOP Senate hopefuls to debate Feb. 20

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Republican candidates for a U.S. Senate seat representing Indiana will debate Feb. 20 in Indianapolis.

The conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity-Indiana is organizing the event and said Tuesday that all six announced GOP candidates had accepted invitations to take part.

Seeking their party's nomination in the May 8 primary election are U.S. Reps. Luke Messer of Greensburg and Todd Rokita of Brownsburg, Jasper businessman Mike Braun, Kokomo attorney Mark Hurt, New Albany college administrator Andrew Takami and Owen County resident and frequent Libertarian candidate Andrew Horning.

AFP-IN said only those candidates still running at the time of the debate will participate. To qualify for Indiana's ballot, a Senate candidate must gather and present to state election officials by Feb. 9 the signatures of at least 500 certified registered voters in each of Indiana's nine congressional district.

The Feb. 20 debate will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Emmis Communications on Monument Circle. The moderator will be WIBC radio host Tony Katz, and topics will include health care, taxes, government spending and jobs.

The debate will be broadcast by WIBC and streamed live on AFP-IN's Facebook page. AFP-IN said it is distributing 200 tickets for the event to the group's activists, the candidates' campaigns, the state Republican Party, the news media and debate partners Emmis and WIBC.

Republican Senate candidates also are scheduled to debate April 23 in Fort Wayne at the Allen County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

The winner of the primary will challenge Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in the general election. Political analysts consider the general election a toss-up regardless of Donnelly's opponent, in part because Republican President Donald Trump won Indiana by 19 percentage points in the 2016 election.

AFP-IN Director Justin Stevens said Tuesday in a statement that the Indiana Senate race “will be one of the most closely watched contests of the year.” The outcome could help decide which party controls the Senate, where Republicans have a 51-49 majority.