Candidate for governor, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, weighs in on the race with the Indiana Capital Chronicle. (Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)
In 2018, Mike Braun was a political outsider who used his considerable wealth as the founder and CEO of Meyer Distributing to fund an underdog campaign to defeat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly.
After just one term in Congress, Republican Braun decided to step back from federal government and return to his home state to run for governor. Sitting Gov. Eric Holcomb is term limited.
“I’m a problem solver by nature. When you run a small business for 17 years and build it into a regional and international company, that’s what life’s about (in order) to survive,” Braun said. “And so I think that’s going to be a differentiator when it comes to what you see in me versus the other candidates.”
Compared to other states, the highest office in Indiana is relatively weak in favor of the General Assembly. But Braun said it wouldn’t be the case for him.
“Not when someone’s a spark plug like I am and is entrepreneurial in nature,” Braun said. “You can certainly be more aggressive on the agenda.”
But on issues, Braun has been quieter than his GOP competitors, which includes: former Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden, former Attorney General Curtis Hill and the devout Jamie Reitenour.
He referred to his wide-ranging “Freedom and Opportunity” agenda as a template for policy proposals but said more specific details would emerge in the early months of 2024. That webpage on his campaign site includes a myriad of issues, ranging from border security and standing up to “woke” corporations to his stance on election security and against abortion rights.
Instead, Braun highlighted several efforts he’d worked on at the federal level over the years, including Promising Pathways, a bill to establish an expedited drug review process for treatments used for rare diseases with a poor prognosis.
“We’ve got more of them cooking up and we’ll get more stuff done,” Braun said about whether he felt he had unfinished business in D.C.
He noted that the bill has Democratic support, signaling his ability to work across the aisle on practical matters.
“I’m going to be the first governor that has ever considered taking on the high cost of health care and our poor outcomes,” Braun said. “It’s taking on the biggest lobby in our state and out there (in D.C.).”
When asked about the multiple health care bills touted by legislators, many of which have long roll-in time periods, he called it “lip service,” adding that the industry needed to “embrace competition and transparency.”
“It’s the biggest lobby and they write a lot of checks,” Braun said. “… we’ve got to do better and everybody’s going to be with me on that — including almost all independents and many Democrats.”
He pointed to his own efforts to keep health care costs low at his company, saying that he hasn’t raised premiums in 15 years. He said the state needed to strike laws restricting competitors in the hospital and insurance spheres.
“I want to make it more entrepreneurial, more market driven,” Braun said.
Adding competition and choice is also how he’d approach education, which makes up over 50% of the state budget.
“I came from a great public school system and most of our public school systems are pretty good. But in places where you’ve got one supplier, you’re generally not going to have meteoric results — you’re going to have mediocrity,” Braun said. “… I want parents to be at the forefront of what they think is most important for their kids. Anything I’ve learned is that it can’t be a federal solution — they don’t do anything well and it costs a fortune.”
Additionally, he wanted to find a state-oriented, innovative solution to the child care shortage — but acknowledged that he had more background on health care issues and was still compiling ideas.
When asked about others using his Congressional record against him, Braun noted that none of his competitors have much of a record. Aside from breaking Senate ties, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch has held administrative positions in the Holcomb and Pence administrations and hasn’t voted as a legislator in a decade.
Neither Eric Doden nor Brad Chambers have won elected office and Curtis Hill didn’t cast votes as the state’s attorney general.
“None of them can say, with a record, what they do; it’s only aspirational. And I’ll point that out, too. I basically practice what I preach,” Braun said.
Braun proudly touted his ranking as one of Congress’ most effective freshman lawmakers, crediting his background as an entrepreneur. He said that he has a record showing he’s “good at putting his neck out there and keeping it intact.”
He observed that he alone had won the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, “the most popular Republican in the state.”
Attacks, like the one from Doden last week, only used information that had previously been debated and dissected in the public sphere.
“If you got that big disparity in the polls, your tendency is going to be to go negative,” Braun said.
On being governor
Governing in Indiana requires a lot of collaboration, especially with the General Assembly, which holds the purse strings. Braun served in the Indiana House between 2014 and 2017 prior to his Congressional run.
In contrast with his time in federal government, Braun said fiscal issues wouldn’t be as worrisome due to Indiana’s requirement to pass a balanced biennial budget.
Still, Braun said he “want(ed) to make sure we make our government… a little leaner (and) go through every agency to make sure it’s running as efficiently as a business.”
In his 2018 campaign, Braun vowed to limit himself to just two terms. He said the decision to leave after one term was recognizing that it could be his best chance for the governor post, considering that whomever won in 2024 would likely run again in 2028.
“I might decide it’s time to fish full time by then,” Braun said. “I made this decision as a fork in the road (choice) that made sense for me and my family. And what I think I can do the most to help (Indiana).”
Braun said he’d “ideally” serve two terms as governor but would stay while he was productive — something he said he was more likely to achieve as the only Indiana governor than among the hundreds in Congress.
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