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Republican gubernatorial candidates seek to define themselves in panel discussion

A clearer picture emerged Wednesday of how Republican candidates for governor are each trying to define themselves in the race.

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), former Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, businessman Eric Doden and former Attorney General Curtis Hill participated in a panel discussion at the annual Dentons Legislative Conference.

Crouch made a splash earlier this year endorsing complete elimination of the state’s individual income tax — which would leave a multi-billion-dollar hole in the state budget. And she pivoted to that proposal often, even to a question about how to ensure public safety.

“I’ll start by axing the tax, putting thousands of dollars into the pockets of active and retired first responders,” Crouch said.

Hill, whose law license was temporarily suspended while in office for criminally battering four women, leaned heavily into ultra-conservative issues. He voiced opposition to abortion, LGBTQ+ rights and mask mandates, including in a question on education.

“If we can teach children to think critically about the world around them, then they will not succumb to radical indoctrination,” Hill said.

READ MORE: Gubernatorial candidates discuss economic platforms, issues during a forum on Friday

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Braun often talked about his auto parts distribution business, including in an answer about removing barriers to economic growth.

“We got some of the highest health care costs in the country, with some of the poorest outcomes,” Braun said. “I took that on in my own business over 15 years ago.”

Chambers stressed his economic development background. He said the number one job for a governor is growing the economy.

“We have to play economic offense because everyone around us is,” Chambers said. “And to keep these kids here, we need to recruit high wage industries. We need to continue to invest in entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Businessman Eric Doden, also a former state commerce secretary, repeatedly emphasized the need to revitalize small towns.

“We cannot be a state where only four or five counties are growing population and doing well,” Doden said.

Braun participated via pre-taped video messages. And Jamie Reitenour, also a Republican candidate, did not take part.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.