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Republican gubernatorial candidates seek to define themselves in panel discussion

A collage of five photos, each showing a Republican gubernatorial candidates. From left to right, they're Suzanne Crouch, Brad Chambers, Mike Braun, Curtis Hill and Eric Doden.
Brandon Smith
IPB News
Republican gubernatorial candidates (from left to right) Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, former Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), former Attorney General Curtis Hill and businessman Eric Doden participated in a panel discussion at the Dentons Legislative Conference on Dec. 13, 2023. Braun participated via pre-taped video messages.

A clearer picture emerged Wednesday of how Republican candidates for governor are each trying to define themselves in the race.

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), former Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, businessman Eric Doden and former Attorney General Curtis Hill participated in a panel discussion at the annual Dentons Legislative Conference.

Crouch made a splash earlier this year endorsing complete elimination of the state’s individual income tax — which would leave a multi-billion-dollar hole in the state budget. And she pivoted to that proposal often, even to a question about how to ensure public safety.

“I’ll start by axing the tax, putting thousands of dollars into the pockets of active and retired first responders,” Crouch said.

Hill, whose law license was temporarily suspended while in office for criminally battering four women, leaned heavily into ultra-conservative issues. He voiced opposition to abortion, LGBTQ+ rights and mask mandates, including in a question on education.

“If we can teach children to think critically about the world around them, then they will not succumb to radical indoctrination,” Hill said.

READ MORE: Gubernatorial candidates discuss economic platforms, issues during a forum on Friday

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Braun often talked about his auto parts distribution business, including in an answer about removing barriers to economic growth.

“We got some of the highest health care costs in the country, with some of the poorest outcomes,” Braun said. “I took that on in my own business over 15 years ago.”

Chambers stressed his economic development background. He said the number one job for a governor is growing the economy.

“We have to play economic offense because everyone around us is,” Chambers said. “And to keep these kids here, we need to recruit high wage industries. We need to continue to invest in entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Businessman Eric Doden, also a former state commerce secretary, repeatedly emphasized the need to revitalize small towns.

“We cannot be a state where only four or five counties are growing population and doing well,” Doden said.

Braun participated via pre-taped video messages. And Jamie Reitenour, also a Republican candidate, did not take part.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at 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.