3 takeaways from Wednesday’s gubernatorial debate

Republican gubernatorial candidates debate each other at a March 27, 2024, event. From left, Mike Braun, Suzanne Crouch, Curtis Hill, Eric Doden and Brad Chambers are pictured. (Screenshots of a March 27, 2024, debate hosted by WISH-TV)

Mar 28, 2024

Three Republicans vying to be the state’s next governor ramped up attacks on the gubernatorial front-runner, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, during a televised Wednesday debate.

Five of the six Republican candidates — Braun, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, former Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers, Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden and former Attorney General Curtis Hill — qualified for the debate, hosted by WISH-TV. Jamie Reitenour was the lone GOP candidate to be excluded from the event. Her campaign said she was disqualified for not meeting a $300,000 fundraising stipulation by December.

Here are three takeaways from the face-off.

Attacks on Braun increase

Braun, who touts a large lead in recent polls and former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, was the subject of many pointed attacks from Chambers, Doden and Hill. Crouch, however, mostly abstained from criticizing Braun directly during the debate.

Hill lambasted Braun for the latter’s claim of being a political “outsider,” saying the senator has “been in the system long enough.” Chambers similarly lobbied skepticism of Braun’s claim, arguing that a candidate who has been on the ballot as often as Braun couldn’t hold the title. Braun, a state lawmaker from 2014 to 2017 and a U.S. senator since 2019, said he still considered himself a political outsider, choosing to define the term by “what you have done for most of your life.” He added that the “ultimate outsider” had endorsed him. 

In addition, Chambers ribbed Braun for his record on his taxes, claiming the senator “touched 45 tax increases” during his time in the Indiana General Assembly. Doden again questioned Braun’s stances on qualified immunity and Black Lives Matter.


The candidates’ pursuit of Braun continued throughout the night, especially when discussing the nation’s southern border and their stances on migrants.

“Sen. Braun used the word[s] ‘lie’ and ‘distort.’ I think that’s applicable to his role on the border,” Chambers said. “There’s 7 million people that have come in on his watch. … So he’s done literally nothing to stop the flow of illegal aliens over our border.”

Braun blamed President Joe Biden’s administration for what he believes are its failures at the border. All of the other candidates expressed similar sentiments but also blamed Congress.

“President Biden needs to do his job. Congress needs to do their job, and that includes Sen. Mike Braun,” Doden said. Doden’s policy proposals on the matter include stricter sentences for drug dealers and more resources for people with addictions.

Hill said Hoosiers sent Braun to find solutions to a range of issues, including immigration. “I don’t want to hear blame — ‘it’s the Democrats; we couldn’t get that done,’” the former attorney general said. Hill also said Gov. Eric Holcomb “relented” to his calls to send Indiana’s National Guard to the southern border days after he suggested it.

Blaming “illegal immigrants” for “bringing deadly fentanyl into our communities,” Crouch said she would send them to sanctuary cities outside of Indiana. 

Chambers claimed migrants are “taking jobs away from Hoosiers” and suggested they are causing increased crime. He, like all of the other candidates, committed to maintaining a Hoosier presence at the southern border.

Braun said his opponents “need to get Government 101 down” and shifted blame to the Democratic Senate. He added that it was “easy” for the other candidates to suggest immigration policies when they “had never been in the position of doing it.”


The candidates also addressed their thoughts on education, with some showing slight differences from Republican state lawmakers over policy priorities.

Asked whether they supported the recently passed Senate Enrolled Act 1, which could see some third graders who are not reading on grade level held back, only Crouch and Chambers raised their hands.

Chambers, echoing Republican state lawmakers, said it is unacceptable for third graders to not have learned to read. He suggested the state spend less money on building costs and put more money into teachers’ salaries.

Crouch envisioned consolidating several state agencies that deal with education topics into one overarching agency, passing the estimated savings on to classrooms.

Braun wanted “more choice, more competition and something completely different.” However, he did not specify why he disagreed with the new law.

Hill said the state should weigh students’ needs individually rather than enforcing a “one size fits all” approach. “We need to provide individual assessments to make sure we are doing the right thing by these children,” he said. He also suggested the state “shrink the size” of the Indiana Department of Education.

Doden proposed a teacher investment program to address Indiana’s “teacher shortage.” The program, he said, would attract more teachers to the profession by ensuring they do not pay property and income taxes.

Regarding higher education, Hill said too many students are enrolling in college for a “worthless” degree. All of the candidates praised work-force development efforts — apprenticeships, internships, military programs, vocational programs — and said they would be key to improving Hoosiers’ outcomes.

“Higher [education] has stigmatized those pathways,” Braun claimed. “Our guidance counselors won’t mention them.”

Wednesday’s debate followed another televised debate hosted by Fox59/CBS4 on Tuesday, when four of the candidates — Braun, Chambers, Crouch and Doden — debated time zones, embryos and leadership styles (Hill and Reitenour did not qualify). They also graded Gov. Eric Holcomb’s tenure. Holcomb has yet to endorse any of the candidates, saying he awaits more policy specifics from their campaigns.

Previously, all of the candidates sparred at a March 19 business forum and a March 11 debate hosted by Current Publishing at the Palladium in Carmel.

Each of the candidates has been invited to participate in the Indiana Debate Commission’s April 23 debate, the last before the state’s May 7 primary. The winner of the Republican primary will face Democratic candidate Jennifer McCormick and Libertarian Donald Rainwater in the November general election.

Contact Jarred Meeks on X @jarredsmeeks or email him at [email protected]

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