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US Sen. Braun, Lt. Gov. Crouch launch bids for Indiana governor

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — U.S. Sen. Mike Braun on Monday again cast himself as a relative outsider as he launched his campaign for the state’s highest office.

The first-term U.S. senator said he would be of much more use in the governor’s chair than in Washington. He said he wants to focus on reducing maternal and infant mortality in Indiana and improving educational outcomes. He also said he wants to raise base pay for state troopers. Braun promised novel approaches to those issues, though he did not offer specifics.

“When you look at the issues that I think are important to most Americans, most Hoosiers, I’m going to weigh in on them and I’m going to do it in a way that is entrepreneurial and is going to maybe push the envelope a little bit,” Braun said.

Braun’s announcement came hours after fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch released her first campaign ad and filed her own paperwork for a gubernatorial campaign committee. Unlike Braun, Crouch began campaigning before the ink was dry on her official documents. In her ad, Crouch touted her previous experience as a state legislator and as state auditor while promising lower taxes, more worker training and greater parental involvement in school curricula. Crouch’s campaign already has about $2.5 million on hand but Braun holds a 37-point lead, at least according to an internal poll conducted by his campaign. Former Mike Pence aide Eric Doden launched a campaign of his own last year.

Braun’s decision will leave his Senate seat open in 2024. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, said in a brief statement Monday he is “strongly considering” a run for Braun’s seat. Fellow Congresswoman Victoria Spartz has said she is debating a run of her own but has not yet decided. Current Gov. Eric Holcomb’s name has been dropped as a possible candidate as well but Republican Party insiders say they’re not sure he’ll run.

No Democrats have yet formally launched any gubernatorial campaigns. Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick, who switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party last year, has repeatedly said she is “evaluating” calls for her to run, a position she reiterated Monday. Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott, who ran unsuccessfully this year against U.S. Sen. Todd Young, recently told News 8 he also is considering a run for governor.

Holcomb, who is term-limited, said he wants to focus on the budget for now and has no immediate plans to make a primary endorsement.