Indiana Capital Chronicle: Braun to participate in two general election debates

<p>Sen. Mike Braun speaks Sept. 4, 2019, in the new Health Professions Building. One of the main topics Braun discussed with President Geoffrey Mearns was higher education costs. <strong>Eric Pritchett, DN</strong></p>

Sen. Mike Braun speaks Sept. 4, 2019, in the new Health Professions Building. One of the main topics Braun discussed with President Geoffrey Mearns was higher education costs. Eric Pritchett, DN

In a Monday morning release, the Republican gubernatorial nominee and sitting U.S. Sen. Mike Braun indicated that he would participate in two general election debates slated for October.

“As a Main Street Entrepreneur, I believe in competition and a spirited discussion about the issues facing Hoosiers, and that’s why I have once again agreed to two statewide debates that can be viewed across the state,” said Braun in a statement.  “I look forward to these two debates and other campaign stops where my Lt. Governor nominee Julie McGuire and I will discuss our Freedom and Opportunity Agenda to improve our schools, reduce crime, and lower the cost of healthcare for Hoosiers.”

The first debate will occur on Fox 59/CBS 4 Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2024 followed by a WISH-TV debate on Thursday, Oct. 3. Those two stations also hosted primary debates, relying on company criteria to winnow down the crowded Republican field.

Those same qualifications, if applied to the 2024 general election, could potentially disqualify a third-party candidate like Libertarian Donald Rainwater, who won an historic 11.4% of the general election vote in the 2020 gubernatorial election.

According to the criteria for Fox 59/CBS 4, a statewide candidate must receive 5% in a primary test poll question — or 10% for a general election poll — and must report at least $100,000 in contributions, one-quarter of which must be from Hoosier residents.

Braun’s release explicitly acknowledges a “Democrat opponent” but doesn’t mention Rainwater or a Libertarian opponent. Former Superintendent for Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick, who previously ran for office as a Republican, is on the Democratic ticket.

In a statement, Rainwater confirmed that he had been invited to participate in the Oct. 3 debate with WISH-TV and “expect(ed)” to be invited to the Oct. 1 debate.

“Since I placed 2nd in vote totals in 33 of Indiana’s 92 counties in 2020 and also received over 20% of the vote in 17 counties, I cannot imagine a legitimate reason why I would not be included in the gubernatorial debates in 2024,” Rainwater said. “I am a duly nominated candidate on the November 5, 2024 ballot and I do not believe that there should be any other criteria to qualify for a statewide gubernatorial debate.”

McCormick didn’t immediately responded to a request for comment.

Also notable in Braun’s release is the exclusion of the Indiana Debate Commission, which has historically hosted general election debates for gubernatorial candidates. The six-way April primary debate was heavily criticized by candidates and the public alike.

Notably, the Indiana Debate Commission’s 2020 general election debate included Rainwater because it includes anyone who qualifies for the ballot.

Braun’s campaign said it would only participate in the two TV station debates.

This story has been updated to include comments from Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Donald Rainwater.


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