Sen. Mike Braun planning to run for Indiana governor

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Sen. Mike Braun (IL file photo)

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun has ended months of speculation over whether he planned to run for Indiana governor in 2024 rather than seek a second term in the Senate.

The senator filed paperwork Tuesday with the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office to form a campaign finance committee to pay for the gubernatorial run.

Braun, 68, will seek to replace Gov. Eric Holcomb, a fellow Republican whose second term ends on Jan. 13, 2025. Holcomb cannot seek reelection because the Indiana Constitution prohibits governors from serving more than eight years in any 12-year period.

Josh Kelley, Braun’s chief of staff and senior political adviser, acknowledged the campaign filing with the Indiana Election Division and said in an email that Braun “will be making an official announcement of his candidacy very soon.”

Braun has talked openly for months about the possibility of running for governor rather than campaigning for the Senate seat he won in 2018. The two elections will take place at the same time.

A wealthy founder of a national auto parts distribution business, Braun campaigned for Senate as a strong supporter of then-President Donald Trump and often aligns himself closely with the Senate’s most conservative members while bemoaning the body’s deliberative pace. He supported a failed attempt by Florida Sen. Rick Scott to unseat Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, saying in a statement that “Hoosier conservative Republicans are sick and tired of the status quo.”

Braun publicly denounced Holcomb’s decision in March to veto a Republican-backed bill banning transgender girls from competing in Indiana girls’ sports teams.

He split from fellow Indiana GOP Sen. Todd Young, who won reelection this month, by voting against advancing a bill protecting same-sex and interracial marriages across the country. Braun earlier this year said he misunderstood the question when he told reporters that the U.S. Supreme Court was wrong to legalize interracial marriage nationwide in 1967.

Braun would be heavily favored to win a second Senate term from Republican-dominated Indiana, but the open governor’s seat has many possible candidates.

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, who was Holcomb’s 2016 and 2020 running mate, has raised more than $2 million for an unannounced campaign, as has Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden since he kicked off a campaign last year.

Republican U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth alluded to a possible run for other political offices when he announced in January that he wouldn’t seek reelection — and some Republicans are hoping that former Gov. Mitch Daniels will seek a Statehouse return after he steps down as Purdue University’s president at the end of December.

Braun fueled his successful 2018 Senate campaign with more than $11 million in personal loans, vaulting from a little-known businessman to winning the Republican primary over then-Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, then unseating Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.

Hollingsworth, the son of a wealthy commercial and industrial property developer from Tennessee, spent millions of his own money to win his congressional seat in 2016.

But Braun said in mid-November that he wouldn’t spend his own money on a run for governor.

“No, that was a necessity in the primary and that shouldn’t be an issue this time,” he said.

Two Republicans with reported interest in running for the Senate seat are U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, who unsuccessfully sought a top House Republican position this week, and U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz.

Discussions of possible 2024 statewide Democratic candidates have centered on Donnelly, who is now President Joe Biden’s ambassador to the Vatican, and former state schools superintendent Jennifer McCormick, who won election as a Republican in 2016 but has since switched parties after disputes with Republican Statehouse leaders over education policies.

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