Five Republican candidates seeking to become the next governor of Indiana presented their campaign platforms Sept. 11 during the Hamilton County Republican Party’s Annual Fall Dinner at Embassy Suites Conference Center in Noblesville.
Candidates Curtis Hill, former Indiana attorney general; Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden; Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch; Brad Chambers, former Indiana secretary of commerce; and Sen. Mike Braun each had five minutes to make their case in front of a politically engaged crowd of 650 attendees.
Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, is not running again after reaching term limits.
Curtis Hill: ‘Objective truth is under attack’
Hill, who served as the state’s attorney general from 2017 to 2021, took aim at the Holcomb/Crouch administration and several national issues, including border security and the “weaponization of race.”
He accused the governor’s administration of inaction during riots that broke out in downtown Indianapolis in May 2020 after some racial justice protestors clashed with police.
“What I won’t do is stand by like the Holcomb/Crouch administration and watch Indianapolis burn at the hands of looters and thugs. I know the difference between constitutional protection and violent offenders,” said Hill, who served as Elkhart County prosecutor for 14 years. “Another thing I won’t do is support the largest organizations that by their nature are anti-family or anti-police and go by the name Black Lives Matter. We won’t support them at all.”
He also pointed to an opinion he wrote in July 2020 stating that Holcomb didn’t have the authority as governor to criminally punish those who chose not to wear masks during the COVID pandemic. Holcomb dropped that part of the mask mandate before signing the executive order putting it into effect.
Regarding national issues, Hill said he wouldn’t hesitate to deploy the Indiana National Guard to help secure the nation’s border and that the “objective truth is under attack,” leading to the “weaponization of race” and “sexualization of children.”
During his time as attorney general, four women accused Hill of sexual misconduct. An investigation determined the allegations to be credible but that there wasn’t enough evidence to criminally prosecute Hill, who claims the accusations are false. The Indiana Supreme Court suspended his bar license for 30 days as a result of an attorney disciplinary proceeding.
Hill didn’t refer to the accusations but told the crowd that he is a proven fighter.
“One thing you can say about Curtis Hill is he knows how to take a blow, and he knows how to keep standing,” he said.
Eric Doden: ‘Lead with a servant’s heart’
Doden, a businessman from Fort Wayne who previously served as president of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., said his vision as governor would be shaped by determining how he can meet the needs of others and protect the vulnerable.
“I believe that we have an obligation to lead with a servant’s heart,” he said. “That’s when we’re at our best in politics.”
One example, he said, is his proposal for zero-cost public adoptions, which would make it easier for the 13,000 children in foster care to permanently become part of a family. His plan calls for using $100 million from the state to start the Zero-Cost Adoption Fund, which would be supplemented in perpetuity with private-sector contributions.
He also highlighted his Indiana Main Street Initiative, which would dedicate 10 percent of the state’s economic incentives to Main Streets in rural communities to stimulate economic growth, encourage small business creation and build local pride.
“(The northern Indianapolis suburbs) have pursued excellence in a way that’s remarkable, and we are admiring that every day that we drive through, whether it’s Noblesville, Fishers, Carmel or Zionsville,” Doden said. “But we also know that we need that same excellence in all 92 counties.”
Suzanne Crouch: Not playing it safe
Crouch, who has served as the state’s lieutenant governor since 2017, pointed out that no party has held the state’s top office for more than 20 years since World War II, but she believes she is the candidate to change that (Indiana has had a Republican governor since 2005).
She said her political experience, which includes state auditor, state representative and Vanderburgh County auditor, combined with a willingness to make tough decisions set her apart from her opponents.
“When I’m governor, I’m not going to sit in an office for four years playing it safe so I can get reelected,” she said. “I’m running for governor to boldly lead Indiana into the future. And we’re going to start by eliminating Indiana’s individual income tax.”
Crouch, a native of Evansville, also said she will protect conservative values by ensuring parents have control over what is taught to their children, prosecuting criminals and drug dealers who are in the U.S. illegally and working to ensure the government spends within its means.
Brad Chambers: Continue ‘unprecedented’ economic progress
Chambers, who resigned as Indiana’s secretary of commerce in July shortly before announcing his gubernatorial campaign, hasn’t run for elected office before. The self-described “political outsider” said he would be a governor who “thinks differently” and would “move with urgency” in growing the economy.
“I’m running for governor to continue the unprecedented economic progress that started when I was secretary of commerce, to continue to build an economy of the future, an economy offering high-wage careers that attract and keep our kids and grandkids in a growing economy that will fund needed investments in our education system,” he said.
With the event honoring first responders, Chambers shared about how, as founder and CEO of Indianapolis-based Buckingham Companies, the real estate investment firm returned PPP funds from the federal government to be allocated for other small businesses and opened an empty hotel in downtown Indianapolis to first responders, so they wouldn’t have to worry about catching COVID-19 and taking it home to their families.
“First responders are critical to our safety,” Chambers said. “Just like we did during COVID, I will continue to do all I can to ensure they have the support they need not just to do their jobs but thrive as our friends and our neighbors.”
Mike Braun: ‘You’ll like me better as governor’
Braun, who has served as a U.S. senator representing Indiana since 2019, is ready to return to state politics.
“(In Washington, D.C.) they don’t do budgets anymore,” he said. “They just think government should be the No. 1 thing in our lives, and worse, the federal government.”
The Jasper native also has concerns about state government, however, including overreaching policies put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Never take for granted that your freedom and your liberty are going to be there,” he said. “How do you keep that from happening? You’ve got to make sure that in your local and state government that we represent what the first responders represent, that I’m always going to give it their all for what this country was built upon.”
Braun said as a senator he has always voted on principle, which he said he would continue to do as governor.
“If you’ve liked me as a senator, I think you’ll like me better as a governor,” he said.