Donnelly and Braun to debate at PNW
WESTVILLE — U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly and Republican challenger Mike Braun will meet in a debate next month at Purdue Northwest’s Westville campus, the first of two scheduled debates in one the nation’s most closely-watched Senate races.
The Indiana Debate Commission announced Wednesday that Donnelly, Braun and Libertarian Lucy Brenton will meet in a debate in Northwest Indiana on Oct. 8.
“With growing interest in the 2018 midterm elections, the commission chose a college campus to reach many of our first-time voters,” commission President Gerry Lanosga said in a statement. “Students and the community at large will be able to hear the candidates explain their public policy positions – and hear what is most pressing to Hoosier voters.”
The debate moderator will be Anne Ryder, a veteran broadcaster now teaching at the Indiana University Media School.
Donnelly was born and raised in New York state, and graduated from Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in government in 1977 and a law degree in 1981. He practiced law until 1996, when he opened Marking Solutions, a printing and rubber-stamp company.
Donnelly served on the Indiana State Election Board from 1988-89, and was a member of the Marian High School Board from 1997-01. In 2004, Donnelly ran for Congress in Indiana’s 2nd congressional district, but lost to incumbent Republican Chris Chocola.
Two years later, he beat Chocola in a rematch, despite being highly outspent in the campaign. He easily won re-election in 2008 and then won a third term in a close race with current U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski in 2010. In 2012, he ran for Senate and beat Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock by a 50 percent to 44 percent margin.
Will Baskin-Gerwitz, communication director for the Donnelly campaign, said taking part in two debates is “in keeping with the traditions of Indiana’s past U.S. Senate campaigns.
“Joe looks forward to sharing his record with Hoosiers of how he has effectively fought for them in the Senate over the past six years and how he plans to reach across the aisle to continue to deliver results for Indiana in the future.”
Braun is a native of Jasper, Indiana, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Wabash College and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. He is president and CEO of Meyer Distributing.
Braun was a member of the Jasper School Board from 2004-14, and served as a state representative from 2014-17, when he resigned from the legislature to run for Senate. He won an extremely close GOP primary over U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, winning with just 41 percent of the vote by a margin of just over 56,000.
At a rally for Braun last week in Evansville, President Donald Trump called him a “special guy” and promised that Braun would “be a truly great senator.”
Brenton is a native Hoosier who graduated from Northwest High School in Indianapolis in 1989. She was crowned Miss Indianapolis Teen 1989 and earned a bachelor’s degree in French and Economics from IUPUI.
She serves as secretary of the Hamilton County Libertarian Party. In 1995, she ran for City-County Council of Indianapolis and received the largest percentage of votes ever for a Libertarian candidate.
Polls show the race is a close one.
An NBC News/Marist poll released Wednesday showed 44 percent of likely voters support Donnelly; 41 percent back Braun; and 8 percent choose Brenton in a three-way race. In a head-to-head contest, Donnelly gets 49 percent to 43 percent for Braun. There is a 5 percent margin of error for likely voters. Among registered voters, Donnelly gets 48 percent support, compared with Braun’s 42 percent.
Political pundits consider Donnelly one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators because he beat a flawed candidate in 2012, while Trump won Indiana in 2016 by nearly 20 percentage points.
The debate, the first of two sponsored by the independent, nonpartisan commission, will begin at 6 p.m. at the Dworkin Student Services and Activities Complex on the campus on U.S. 421.
“It is an honor that the Indiana Debate Commission selected Purdue Northwest to host this most important debate for our state,” PNW Chancellor Thomas Keon said. “Our interest is always in serving the public good; in creating an environment that encourages constructive dialog and differing perspectives on relevant topics of our time.
“We’re very excited to be partnering with the commission to bring a statewide debate of this magnitude to the citizens of Northwest Indiana.”
The opportunity for PNW to host the debate came through an Indiana Debate Commission board member from Northwest Indiana – Lakeshore Public Media’s Tom Maloney, university spokesman Doug Clark said. “After the commission toured our facilities, they discussed, and ultimately selected, Purdue Northwest as a debate site.
“The visibility for Purdue Northwest is definitely high, given that Indiana’s U.S. Senate race is expected to draw national attention ... and this debate will be carried live on C-SPAN,” Clark said.
The debate will also draw attention “to issues important to the citizens” of Northwest Indiana, he said.
“What this selection demonstrates is something most of us in Northwest Indiana already know, that Purdue Northwest is a full-fledged public university committed to serving all of Northwest Indiana ... To be the only university in Indiana selected by the commission to host a U.S. Senate debate is truly a privilege. We’re excited to help bring a statewide, and national, spotlight to the region.”
All the free public tickets for the event were taken within hours of the commission posting the information on its Facebook and Twitter pages Wednesday morning, the same thing that happened when information on the second debate, scheduled for Oct. 30 in Indianapolis, was posted.
However, both debates will be livestreamed on the Indiana Debate Commission website, and broadcast live by C-SPAN. They will also be archived on the commission’s website and YouTube channel.
Indiana voters can suggest questions to be asked by going to indianadebatecommission.com/submit-a-question-senate/.
Debate at Purdue Northwest
WHAT: U.S. Senate debate
WHO: U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D); Republican Mike Braun; Libertarian Lucy Brenton
WHEN: 6 p.m. Oct. 8
WHERE: Dworkin Center at Purdue University Northwest Westville campus
TICKETS: All public tickets taken
QUESTIONS: Submit questions at indianadebatecommission.com/submit-a-question-senate/