Chambers announces gubernatorial bid, puts rumors to rest

He is a mystery to voters as his campaign begins against well-known opponents

By: - August 17, 2023 10:32 am

Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers speaks at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s quarterly meeting on June 28, 2023. (Photo from Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Flickr)

Former Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers on Thursday joined an increasingly crowded Republican primary field to succeed Gov. Eric Holcomb in 2024.

Chambers stepped down from his position with the state earlier this month, fueling speculation that he would join the race for the open seat. Holcomb is term-limited and cannot run in 2024.

“As Indiana’s Secretary of Commerce, the last two years, I have witnessed firsthand how important leadership, vision, urgency and aspiration are to the future of Indiana,” Chambers said in a release. “I am running for Governor because I want Hoosiers of today and Hoosiers of tomorrow to believe that Indiana offers an opportunity for an excellent life. I am ambitious in my vision for Indiana, and I look forward to talking with Hoosiers about the best way to continue making our state the envy of many.”

Once past the primary, the eventual Republican nominee will likely face former Superintendent of Education Jennifer McCormick, a Democrat facing no primary opposition, and Libertarian Donald Rainwater, whose party selects its leading candidate.

During his departure, Chambers touted the successes of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), the quasi-public economic development state agency he led. Those wins include launching the LEAP Innovation District in Boone County and distributing hundreds of millions of state dollars in regional investments known as READI.

Chambers founded his real estate business, Buckingham Companies, as a student at Indiana University in 1984 and now commands a portfolio exceeding $3 billion as the company’s president and CEO. He also founded the philanthropic Buckingham Foundation, Inc., dedicated to causes such as childhood hunger and affordable housing.

Prior to his time leading the state’s economic development efforts, he served as the chair of the Indiana State Fair Commission and sat on various boards, including: Indianapolis Downtown Inc., National Multi-Housing Council, Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership and the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Urban Land Institute of Indiana, the Indiana State Office Building Commission, the Apartment Association of Indiana and the Indianapolis Police Department Civilian Merit Board.

A competitive primary

The pathway to governor won’t be easy, with political powerhouses raising millions to woo voters in advance of the May Republican primary.

Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch have proven to be formidable in the fundraising arena, promising an expensive race. Former Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill joined the contest last month after campaign finance deadlines but could attract — and more importantly, retain — a key segment of the Republican Christian vote.

With so many people in the race, the candidate with the largest plurality of voters wins, said Laura Merrifield Wilson, a professor of political science at the University of Indianapolis. And each will have to distinguish themselves in a crowded field.

“I don’t think (any) are going to be Gov. Holcomb 2.0 … economic development, education and infrastructure were super important to Holcomb; we heard that in every State of the State for Holcomb,” Merrifield Wilson said. “What are the issues that these candidates care about?”

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In a turnabout from Holcomb’s administration, which largely shied away from culture war issues, these candidates appear to be more focused on abortion, immigration and firearms. 

But in a race that includes Braun, Crouch and Hill — all staunch conservatives — Doden has distinguished himself as the more moderate candidate, even as he touts a pro-life and pro-Second Amendment stance. But Chambers could also fill that void, Merrifield Wilson said.

“We don’t really know where he stands on policies and what he would do, what he would offer as governor,” Merrifield Wilson said. “That would tell us whether or not he’s moderate or where he stands in the ideological spectrum.”

The lack of voting record for Doden and Chambers could be a benefit or a disadvantage, Merrifield Wilson said, but means they need to be explicit about their proposals. Additionally, Doden is a predecessor of Chambers and led the IEDC under the Pence administration — putting the two candidates in an interesting dynamic.

“Braun or Crouch have served in elected office for enough cycles to be able to analyze how they feel about particular issues and cross check that with what it is they say,” Merrifield Wilson said. “For somebody like Chambers or Doden, they’ve served in a statewide office but it’s not elected. Leading (the IEDC), they are less known to the public (and) their stances are less known.”

But Merrifield Wilson noted that Doden has the advantage of being the first to launch a 2024 gubernatorial campaign, while Chambers could be the last one in the race. 

“It’s not technically too late — the filing deadline isn’t until February — but this is getting later in the cycle, especially just for fundraising,” Merrifield Wilson said. “There are few lanes left to occupy … Who is Chambers? And where is he going to stand as a candidate?”


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Whitney Downard
Whitney Downard

A native of upstate New York, Whitney previously covered statehouse politics for CNHI’s nine Indiana papers, focusing on long-term healthcare facilities and local government. Prior to her foray into Indiana politics, she worked as a general assignment reporter for The Meridian Star in Meridian, Mississippi. Whitney is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University (#GoBonnies!), a community theater enthusiast and cat mom.