Neighborly Indiana is turning out to be the first hotbed of Republican internecine warfare in the 2024 election cycle as early contenders for governor and Senate begin jockeying for position in primaries roughly 18 months away.
Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) and Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch announced campaigns for chief executive on Monday, setting up a battle royal GOP primary for the governor’s mansion between two heavyweights from the southern end of the Hoosier State. Braun, a wealthy businessman elected to the Senate in 2018, is from tiny Jasper. Crouch, a veteran of local and state government, hails from the comparative metropolis of Evansville, along the Ohio River that borders Kentucky.
Braun’s declaration prompted Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) to unveil his “strong consideration” of a run for Senate.
Banks, reelected in November to a fourth term in the northeast Indiana 3rd Congressional District, was recently passed over by his fellow House Republicans in his bid for the No. 3-ranking whip post, which becomes available next month when the GOP assumes the majority. With the eventual Republican nominee likely to win the general election, the GOP Senate primary could become quite crowded. Several prominent Republicans are mentioned as possible contenders.
“Indiana deserves a proven conservative to continue Sen. Braun’s work in the United States Senate,” Banks said in a statement, reflecting a debate over who is the strongest conservative likely to dictate the terms of Republican primaries across the Hoosier State in 2024.
For years, Indiana supported Democrats and Republicans for state and federal office. Hoosiers backed Democrats for the governor’s mansion from 1988 to 2000 while voting for Barack Obama for president in 2008 and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) for the Senate in 2012. But the state has trended Republican since then. Former President Donald Trump won the state overwhelmingly in 2016 and 2020, and the GOP now holds all statewide constitutional offices and both Senate seats.
Even in the 2018 midterm elections, a blue wave that swept Democrats to power in the House with a 40-seat gain, Braun comfortably ousted Donnelly, 50.8% to 44.8%. This demonstrable partisan advantage could ultimately motivate several ambitious Republicans to run for governor and Senate, fueling crowded fields of candidates for both offices, not unlike what unfolded in some red states this past election cycle.
That dynamic, plus GOP hopes of recapturing the Senate majority in 2024, is likely to fuel a competitive gubernatorial primary in which candidates work hard not to get outflanked on their right. The potential Republican Senate contenders, as mentioned by political observers and GOP insiders, include:
Former Vice President Mike Pence. The former Indiana governor is eyeing a White House bid and giving zero indication of any interest in the Senate. But he previously served in the House, and his name has been raised as a possible candidate. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN). Spartz represents central Indiana’s 5th Congressional District and, as a Ukraine-born American, has increased her notoriety by being a go-to Republican for insight and commentary on Russia’s invasion of its European neighbor. With Braun running for governor, Spartz has suggested her Senate bid is a done deal but has yet to make an announcement. Jennifer-Ruth Green. Green was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress this fall in the northwest Indiana, Democratic-leaning 1st Congressional District. But Green, who is black, impressed Republican activists and donors across the country with her underdog campaign, and she could be formidable in a Senate primary. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN). The congressman, retiring after three terms, represents southeast Indiana’s 9th Congressional District. His viability in a Senate primary is unclear. But Hollingsworth, a Tennessee transplant, does bring one key asset to the table: the ability to self-fund a campaign courtesy of his family’s deep pockets.
Gov. Eric Holcomb. It’s unknown if Indiana’s term-limited chief executive is interested in running for Senate in 2024, especially with Braun and Crouch in the race. But he was a candidate for Senate six years ago briefly, before dropping out to become Pence’s running mate as the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor. After Pence exited the 2016 governor’s race to become Trump’s running mate, Holcomb took his place as the GOP gubernatorial nominee.