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Republican gubernatorial candidates spar in primary's first televised debate

A screenshot of a livestream in which four candidates stand in front of lecterns on a stage.
Screenshot of Fox59 livestream
From left to right, Eric Doden, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, and Brad Chambers participated in the first televised debate of the 2024 Republican gubernatorial primary on March 26, 2024. The debate was hosted by Indianapolis stations Fox59/CBS4.

Attacks between some of the Republican candidates for governor sharpened Tuesday during the primary’s first televised debate.

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Brad Chambers, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and Eric Doden answered a range of questions, from immigration to in vitro fertilization to gas taxes. And while many of their answers were largely the same, they took their shots where they could.

Much of the attacks were directed at Braun, considered the frontrunner. Doden hit him on immigration reform.

“And I’ll point to Sen. Mike Braun, who goes down to the border and cuts a TV commercial, tells us that he’s bringing solutions to the problem, and just a few short days later then says, ‘Well, let’s not have solutions because of politics,’” Doden said.

Braun gave as good as he got, attacking Doden and, in particular, Brad Chambers for the ways they each led the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

“This guy over here has been with his fat cat buddies over the time he spent there, zeroing in on a couple projects,” Braun said.

READ MORE: Almost all of Indiana's candidates for governor say state needs new economic development strategy

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Chambers parried those attacks back at Braun.

“We don’t want to take Senator Braun’s advice on this,” Chambers said. “He’s the one that said, in 2018, we want to bring jobs back from China, we want to bring jobs overseas. And then he went and vetoed and didn’t support the CHIPS Act. I brought eight high-wage companies based on the CHIPS Act.”

Crouch largely didn’t engage in the attacks, nor was she the target of much. But she did reserve a little criticism for her opponents over a question of small towns and their infrastructure issues. Crouch argued that she was focused on helping them.

“It seems like my opponents are more interested in their next job,” Crouch said.

Curtis Hill and Jamie Reitenour, who are also on the primary ballot, were excluded from the debate.

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

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.