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Republican gubernatorial candidates spar in first formal debate of campaign

Six candidates for governor stand behind lecterns on a brightly-lit stage. Above them is a large screen that reads "2024 Republican Primary Gubernatorial Debate."
Brandon Smith
IPB News
All six Republican candidates for governor met on a debate stage in Carmel on Mar. 11, 2024.

Most of Indiana’s six Republican candidates for governor weren’t shy about attacking each other Monday during the campaign’s first formal debate.

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), considered the frontrunner, was a frequent target, including from former state commerce secretary Brad Chambers.

“I think Hoosiers are curious why you’re a one-term senator and why you are running for governor,” Chambers said. “If I looked back at your 2018 campaign ads, you said you were opposed to career politicians. It seems like you’re heading down the path of a career politician.”

Braun defended his record in the Senate, touting his fiscal responsibility.

“When you’re one of a hundred and you have a record like I take away from there, being named one of the most effective senators as a freshman Senate office — imagine what you can do when you can set the agenda,” Braun said.

Others pointed out that Braun voted for legislation that added trillions to the national debt, the CARES Act. Braun defended that decision by noting it was during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Chambers took his fair share of disparagement, primarily focused on his leadership of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

Candidate Jamie Reitenour took issue with the IEDC’s LEAP district in central Indiana. The state has spent millions of dollars buying land to develop in an effort to lure major corporations to the site.

“I do not believe it is our job as government to try to promote the economy,” Reitenour said. “It is the job of the private sector. It’s called capitalism.”

Chambers didn’t back down from his defense of the project.

“We need to lead in a globally competitive economy,” Chambers said. “Because you know what? North Carolina and Ohio and Arizona and Ireland and China are trying to eat our cheese every day.”

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch was a target from several others who sought to tie her to the administration she’s served in the last seven years.

That included criticism from Reitenour over COVID-19 policies.

“I would’ve loved to see the lieutenant governor out in front of the Statehouse during COVID, telling everyone that they did not have to get a vaccine,” Reitenour said.

Though Crouch largely stayed on message, she did address those criticisms.

“We can’t go back and change what happened,” Crouch said. “But I’ve learned from the mistakes of our top executive.”

But it was former Attorney General Curtis Hill who had the sharpest attacks of the evening, positioning himself as the candidate with the most proven conservative record.

“Lieutenant governor wants to not talk about the past,” Hill said. “Well, we know why — because she’s tied to the past, the past of a failed administration.”

Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden largely stayed above the fray, focusing on his talking points and not directing criticism at any specific candidate.

“We are not going to solve the problems of the United States from Washington, D.C. down,” Doden said. “I can assure you of that. We see the dysfunction. We are going to solve the problems from local leaders in this room up.”

Early, in-person voting for Indiana’s primary begins April 9.

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.