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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, September 02, 2018 1:00 am

Business group neutral on Senate race

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is not endorsing a candidate in this year's U.S. Senate race.

None of the candidates in the Nov. 6 general election – Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, Republican Mike Braun and Libertarian Lucy Brenton – was included on the list of endorsed federal and state legislative candidates the Indiana Chamber released last week.

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar told the Indianapolis Star that the organization's Congressional Affairs Committee found Donnelly and Braun each had “good alignment with Indiana Chamber efforts, but also notable areas of disagreement. Therefore, the decision reached was to remain neutral and make no endorsement in this race.”

Braun, a former state lawmaker who owns auto parts distribution companies and timber ground, is an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump and his policies. The Indiana Chamber supported Trump's tax cuts approved last year by Congress but has opposed his trade tariffs.

Donnelly, a senator since 2013, was a lawyer and small-business operator before he was elected to the U.S. House in 2006.

The Indiana Chamber had endorsed his Republican opponents in the 2012 Senate election and the 2010 House election; it also endorsed GOP candidates for the state's other Senate seat in the 2010 and 2016 general elections.

The Indiana Chamber announced Monday it had endorsed seven Republican congressional candidates, including two who represent northeast Indiana: Reps. Jim Banks, R-3rd, and Jackie Walorski, R-2nd. It made no endorsements in the 1st and 7th districts, which are Democratic strongholds.

Among Indiana General Assembly candidates from northeast Indiana, the organization endorsed Republican Sens. Liz Brown of Fort Wayne, Dennis Kruse of Auburn, Andy Zay of Huntington and Travis Holdman of Markle; Republican Reps. Martin Carbaugh of Fort Wayne, Bob Morris of Fort Wayne, Dave Heine of New Haven, Chris Judy of Fort Wayne, Matt Lehman of Berne, Dan Leonard of Huntington, Ben Smaltz of Auburn, Dennis Zent of Angola and David Wolkins of Warsaw; and Democratic Rep. Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne.

Two Trumps behind Braun

President Donald Trump hit the Hoosier State on Thursday night and included a pitch for Republican Mike Braun in his race for the Senate seat held by Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly.

But he isn't the only Trump behind Braun.

Donald Trump Jr. penned a column supporting Braun in the Evansville Courier & Press a few days earlier.

He spent most of the piece criticizing Donnelly – calling his “self-proclaimed moderation nothing more than a Trojan Horse strategy designed to trick the good people of Indiana into re-electing him.”

But Trump Jr. said a businessman like Braun can be trusted. “Unlike Donnelly, Braun wants to protect Hoosiers from the scourge of illegal alien crime, and will also defend Americans' Second Amendment rights – something Democrat Donnelly has refused to do despite the overwhelming presence of gun owners, and sportsmen and women across Indiana.”

Late public servant honored

As the country last week was honoring the legacy of Sen. John McCain, one Fort Wayne city councilman took time Tuesday to honor local public servant Jim Owen, who died Aug. 16. 

“Jim was an amazing city servant. He served under administrations dating all the way back to Ivan Lebamoff through (Robert) Armstrong, (Win) Moses, (Paul) Helmke, Graham Richard,” Councilman Michael Barranda, R-at large, said, noting that he met Owen several years ago while running for state representative. 

Throughout his life, Owen sat on the Fort Wayne Board of Public Works, the city Plan Commission, the Board of Park Commissioners, the Fort Wayne Community Trust Board and the Fort Wayne Education Foundation. Owen also taught at the IPFW School of Public and Environmental Affairs for more than 30 years. 

Dave Gong of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook,email Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can also be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.