Republican U.S. Senate candidates Mike Braun and Luke Messer have agreed to debate April 30 in a televised statewide event organized by the independent Indiana Debate Commission.
Braun, an auto parts distributor and former state representative, and Messer, a member of Congress, are two of the three candidates on the May 8 ballot. They and U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita are competing to face Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly in November.
Braun and Messer will debate in a studio at public television station WFYI in Indianapolis from 7 to 8 p.m. The debate will be made available to television stations and other news organizations throughout the state.
Rokita declined the commission’s invitation to debate. The commission said that Rokita’s campaign manager, Bryan Reed, cited scheduling conflicts and specified that the candidate will participate only in primary debates “organized and moderated by conservative Republicans.”
Rokita becomes the first candidate in the commission’s 10-year history to decline to participate in one of its debates. He did participate in a debate in February sponsored by the partisan Americans for Prosperity-Indiana.
“We are very pleased that two candidates have agreed to this debate, but we are equally disappointed that one has opted to decline,” said IDC President Gerry Lanosga. “A contested primary should be heavily vetted by Hoosier voters and not by partisans, party officials or special interest groups. A neutral option, such as one offered by the Indiana Debate Commission, makes the most sense.”
Abdul Hakim-Shabazz, an Indiana politics blogger, radio host and attorney, will moderate. The format has not been determined.
Voters will have the opportunity to submit questions that will be considered for the debate. Questions may be submitted through the IDC’s website starting on a date to be announced later.
The commission also will conduct televised debates during the general election campaign season this fall.
The Indiana Debate Commission formed in 2007 with the mission of putting voters first by sponsoring and conducting statewide, televised debates among candidates for statewide political office.
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