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Indiana GOP gubernatorial candidates spar with moderator, each other in final debate; Braun absent

A screenshot of the livestream of the Indiana Debate Commission's Republican gubernatorial primary debate.
Screenshot of Indiana Debate Commission livestream
Five of Indiana's six Republican gubernatorial candidates were on stage for the primary's final debate on April 23, 2024. U.S. Sen. Mike Braun did not attend in order to vote on a foreign aid bill in Washington, D.C.

Five of Indiana’s six Republican gubernatorial candidates showed up to the primary’s final debate Tuesday, as U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) opted to stay in Washington, D.C. for a foreign aid vote.

And with Braun absent, many of the attacks were aimed at Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch.

Of particular focus in those attacks was her campaign’s tentpole issue, a pledge to eliminate Indiana’s income tax. Former Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill said the state needs a comprehensive approach to tax reform.

“The income tax 'axe the tax' proposal is a gimmick,” Hill said. “It’s not realistic.”

Former state commerce secretary Brad Chambers said Crouch isn’t credible on the issue.

“Listen, Suzanne Crouch and Mike Braun, in their 50 years of combined service, public service, have raised taxes 50 times,” Chambers said.

At that, Crouch hit back.

“My opponents are entitled to their own opinions, but they’re not entitled to their own facts,” Crouch said. “As a state representative, I cut taxes a dozen times.”

The candidates also sparred as much with the moderator as with each other.

READ MORE: GOP candidates seek to stand out in Indiana's first competitive gubernatorial primary in 20 years

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The Indiana Debate Commission’s format was aimed at cutting down on standard-length, canned answers. And it sought to achieve that in part by asking rapid-fire questions designed to elicit yes or no responses.

Many of the candidates took issue with that. It came to a head around questions focused on election integrity, in this exchange between Jamie Reitenour and moderator Jon Schwantes.

“It seems like you’re really trying to set us up and cause division in our party and we don’t appreciate it,” Reitenour said.

“Ms. Reitenour, I think the party is doing quite capably on its own, creating some division,” Schwantes responded.

Former head of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation Eric Doden is the one candidate who didn’t argue with the moderator or his fellow candidates. He remained focused on his campaign talking points.

“We have more plans in writing than everyone on this stage combined,” Doden said.

Primary election day is May 7.

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.