Indiana Chamber Won't Endorse In U.S. Senate Race

Aug 29, 2018

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce won’t endorse either candidate in Indiana's U.S. Senate race.

It’s the first time the influential business organization hasn’t backed a Senate candidate since its endorsements began.

The Indiana Chamber has endorsed candidates in federal races for about 10 years. That covers three prior U.S. Senate races. The chamber's politial action committee endorsed the Republican in each one, including 2016, even though Democratic candidate Evan Bayh previously worked for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

But this cycle, neither Republican Mike Braun nor incumbent U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) will get the chamber’s backing. University of Indianapolis political scientist Laura Wilson says the chamber’s decision could be influential.

"By refraining to endorse the Republican candidate by a generally Republican organization in a Republican state, I think Joe Donnelly and his camp have to see this as a small victory," Wilson says.

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar says his organization shares “alignments” and “disagreements” with both candidates. Wilson says one of those disagreements likely looms largest.

"Braun has supported Trump and he’s really worked on becoming the Trumpiest candidate there is. He’s going to have both the positive and the negative fallout from that," Wilson says. "And in this case here, obviously the support of the tariffs – which the Chamber of Commerce has criticized – I think ultimately that’s the reason why they refrained from giving their endorsement."

A chamber spokesperson notes there were no incumbents in the previous Senate races in which the organization gave an endorsement. Wilson says that’s a convenient excuse.

"Because this is a race we expect to be close; this is a race where an endorsement could matter," Wilson says. "And in this case, we won’t have one from the chamber." 

The chamber endorsed Donnelly's Republican opponent Richard Mourdock when Donnelly made his first Senate run in 2012.