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Republican gubernatorial candidates differentiate themselves over economic development

A collage of five photos, each one showing an individual gubernatorial candidate. From left to right they are Mike Braun, Curtis Hill, Brad Chambers, Eric Doden, and Suzanne Crouch.
Brandon Smith
/
IPB News
From left to right, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), former Attorney General Curtis Hill, former Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers, Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden, and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch participated in a forum on Jan. 25, 2024.

Economic development was the only real issue that separated the major Republican candidates for governor at a forum Thursday.

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), former Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden and former Attorney General Curtis Hill answered questions about private school vouchers, emergency powers, energy, health care and inclusion policies.

And their answers to each of those were relatively the same.

But on economic development, sharper lines were drawn. Braun criticized the state’s current strategy, which he said is solely focused on luring big companies to Indiana.

“They’re expensive, everyone else is competing for them and they’re generally only going to benefit a few places,” Braun said.

Chambers, who recently served as the state’s commerce secretary, overseeing its economic development efforts, defended that work.

“We went out and got an economy that’s good for Indiana, that’s high wages to lift people up economically,” Chambers said.

READ MORE: Republican gubernatorial candidates seek to define themselves in panel discussion

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Hill was critical of Chambers — but saved his strongest attack for Braun.

“We send people to Washington, D.C., and they let us down,” Hill said. “We sent Mike Braun to Washington, D.C., at his request. And he gave up and said, ‘I can’t get the job done, so I’m coming back to Indiana.’”

Crouch and Doden fell back on the policies they’ve been pushing for most of their campaigns. For Crouch, that’s her proposal to eliminate Indiana’s individual income tax.

“Now, my opponents, special interest groups and big-spending bureaucrats are screaming bloody murder and saying it can’t be done,” Crouch said. “But that money’s not theirs — it’s yours.”

And Doden has been preaching for years the need for a revival of small towns.

“And our strategy in the past has been to go after large projects that even bring in more employment, when the real situation we have today is the attraction and retention of talent,” Doden said.

Republican candidate Jamie Reitenour was not a part of the forum.

The candidates are seeking to replace Gov. Eric Holcomb, who is term limited.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.