Braun, Donnelly attack each other at debate

Darron Cummings/Associated Press
Republican former state Rep. Mike Braun, right, speaks during a U.S. Senate Debate against Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly and Libertarian Lucy Brenton on Monday in Westville.


WESTVILLE — Indiana’s three U.S. Senate candidates squared off in their first debate Monday night at Purdue University Northwest campus.

And it went pretty much as expected, with Democrat incumbent Joe Donnelly and Republican challenger Mike Braun fiercely attacking each other, and Libertarian Lucy Brenton swiping some at both.

Veteran Indiana broadcaster Anne Ryder had a lot to do as moderator — to keep the candidates on the question at hand, to keep them from not surpassing their allotted time for answering questions, and to keep the debate moving through the list of prepared questions, though the group did not get to them all.

“I’m the only reasonable candidate for the United States Senate, instead of the two bickering old parties,” Brenton said, leading off the debate. “Tonight you’re going to hear a lot of things you’ve heard before.”

Donnelly touted his congressional record as his strength. “This election is about who you trust to have your back in Washington,” he said. He then attacked Braun directly. “Mike, you need to do more than take your tie off to gain the trust of the people of Indiana.”

Braun, in his opening statement, called himself a “political outsider.”

“I’m running for this because I’m fed up with business as usual in D.C. Career politicians say one thing and do another,” he said. He touted his work as a businessman. And, of course, he struck back at Donnelly. “He is running a campaign in negativity because of his record,” Braun said.

In the hour-long debate, the group got to tackle questions about health care, affording higher education, climate change, Roe v. Wade, safe storage laws for guns, the United States’ international role, and the threat of North Korea. They also talked about their role models, voting against one’s political party, and the polarization of the country, especially during the battle to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh amid allegations of sexual misconduct in his past.

Ryder, with the help of the League of Women Voters of Indiana, kept the candidates, especially Donnelly and Braun, to their allotted time limits for responses.

But whatever the question, Braun and Donnelly managed to attack each other in every answer they gave, veering away from the question at hand and going into complaints they have repeated most of this campaign season.

Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, left, shakes hands with Republican former state Rep. Mike Braun following a U.S. Senate Debate on Monday in Westville.

“You say you are to protect pre-existing conditions, and at the same time you support a lawsuit to take it away,” Donnelly said to Braun early in the debate. “You say you’re for lower taxes, and you voted for the highest taxes in Indiana history. You say you’re for the troops, but you’re against a pay increase for the young women and men from Terre Haute, and Richmond, and Muncie.”

Braun responded: “When you have a senator like this, who keeps repeating falsehoods, it’s a sign of a campaign that is certainly in the drain. I want to make it clear: I would never be for not covering pre-existing conditions. I’ve done it in my own business. The senator gave us Obamacare, which has no choices; it’s falling apart. That’s what you get from a career politician.“

“I would like to ask that we all stick to the question at hand,” Ryder said. “We’re going to get to a lot of the issues that you just mentioned.”

At one point, Brenton added, “It’s going to be an awfully long evening If we just simply listen to them repeat their commercials back and forth to each other.”

Indiana’s U.S. Senate seat has been called one of the most vulnerable seats in this midterm election, making it a hotly contested race. The national Democratic and Republican parties are heavily involved in this race — spending money, running ads and sending out numerous campaign emails on behalf of their candidate.

Brenton, Braun and Donnelly will participate in a second debate Oct. 30. The 7 p.m. debate will be held at the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Toby Theater at Newfields. Tickets for that debate have all been claimed. But the debate will be carried live by C-SPAN, and live-streamed online at the Indiana Debate Commission’s website, Voters can submit proposed debate questions to the commission through the website.

Watch last night's debate below. 

More on