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Wednesday, August 09, 2017 1:00 am

Rokita to make it official, enter Senate race

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita will announce his candidacy this morning for a U.S. Senate seat representing Indiana.

His campaign said Tuesday that Rokita, R-4th, will make a “special announcement” at 9 a.m. today on the steps of the Statehouse.

He will have a news conference at 11:45 a.m. at Allen County Republican Party's headquarters in Fort Wayne.

Rokita, 47, has been signaling for months his intention to run for the GOP nomination for the seat of Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly. 

Rokita, a resident of Brownsburg, set up a statewide campaign finance team in May, has touted his campaign fundraising numbers and has been publicly squabbling with announced candidate Rep. Luke Messer, R-4th.

Two weeks ago, the same day Messer announced his candidacy on Twitter, Rokita's campaign released results of internal polling showing him running ahead of Messer and other possible contenders in the 2018 GOP primary election. 

Rokita will become the sixth announced Republican Senate candidate, joining Messer, state Rep. Mike Braun of Jasper, Hamilton County businessman Terry Hamilton, Kokomo attorney Mark Hurt and New Albany college administrator Andrew Takami.

A former two-term Indiana secretary of state, Rokita was first elected to the House in 2010 to represent the western Indiana congressional district that includes Lafayette, Crawfordsville and suburbs of Indianapolis. In April, Rokita told the audience at the Allen County GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner that Republicans “need someone who has good name ID to go against” Donnelly.

Rokita is vice chairman of the House Budget Committee and a member of the Education and Transportation Committees. He is a proponent of school choice and charter schools, and he had a prominent role in passing the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act for establishing federal academic standards for public schools.

He sought the Republican nomination for governor last summer in a caucus to replace Mike Pence after GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump chose him as his running mate. Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb won both the caucus and the general election.

At the end of June, Rokita reported having $2.35 million in campaign cash, and Messer reported having $2.03 million. The other announced GOP Senate candidates had far less money, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.