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Tuesday, August 15, 2017 1:10 pm

Messer continues Senate campaign rollout in Fort Wayne

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Republican U.S. Rep. Luke Messer said Tuesday that Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly "doesn't stand a chance" if the two face off in the 2018 general election.

Messer, R-6th, was in Fort Wayne and continued the rollout of his Senate candidacy, which has included a July 26 announcement on Twitter. He also had a campaign kickoff party Saturday in Shelby County and media appearances around the state this week.

Indiana residents "want to see better-paying jobs, less government that gives us all more freedom, and we want to see a stronger America, both at home and abroad. They want to see us come together as a party and as a nation, and work with President (Donald) Trump to pass the Trump agenda and get things done," Messer said at Allen County Republican Party Headquarters in downtown.

"Joe Donnelly will have the support of every powerful institution on the East Coast and every Hollywood liberal on the West Coast. But I will have you and Hoosiers just like you. He doesn't stand a chance," Messer told about a dozen local Republicans and several journalists.

"Hoosiers are going to come together and elect a senator that represents them 100 percent of the time," he said.

Messer, 48, is among six announced candidates for the Republican Senate nomination in next May's primary election. He and Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th, are by far the best-known and best-financed of the bunch.

Messer and Rokita have been bickering in public for months. On Tuesday, under the headline "The GOP's nastiest primary," the news organization Politico reported that sources "painted the hostility between Rokita and Messer as the product of three decades of pent-up rivalry" that might have begun when both were Wabash College students.

Messer said in Fort Wayne that he is not going to talk about other GOP candidates, and he would not comment on the Politico story, which reported that he and Rokita declined interview requests.

"I've of course known Todd Rokita since college. I'll leave it at that," Messer said.

Peter Hanscom, Donnelly's campaign manager, said in a fundraising email last week, "No matter who emerges from the GOP slugfest, they’ll be backed by millions of special interest dollars from extremists who want nothing more than to replace Joe with a rubber stamp for their agenda."

Messer is a former state lawmaker from Shelbyville and a former executive director of the Indiana Republican Party. He won election to Congress in 2012 in an eastern Indiana district that includes Muncie, Columbus and Jeffersonville. House Republicans in 2014 chose him as their policy chairman, the fifth-ranking GOP leadership position in the chamber.

For more on this story, see Wednesday's print edition of The Journal Gazette or visit www.journalgazette.net after 1 a.m. Wednesday.

bfrancisco@jg.net