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Jockeying for Position in 2018 Senate Race Already Underway

Rokita, Messer say they're being encouraged to run; no timetable for announcements

Republicans could have a crowded primary next year for the chance to challenge Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly.

Former Dan Coats aide Mark Hurt has already announced he's running, and Congressmen Todd Rokita and Luke Messer both say they're being encouraged to run. Neither one gives a definite timetable for a decision -- both say they're focused right now on the debate in the House over Republicans' health care bill.

Freshman Congressman Jim Banks has been floated as a potential candidate as well. He says he's not thinking about the race, but declines to close the door completely. He says he expects to talk with his family about 2018 after everyone's had a few months to adjust to his commute back and forth to Washington.

Rokita says he still has statewide name recognition from his eight years as secretary of state, but says he's gauging support for a run before making a final decision. He's been taking swings at Donnelly already, though, charging the Democratic senator is out of step with Republican-leaning Indiana on critical issues.

Donnelly ended 2016 with $1.4 million dollars in his campaign treasury, but any of the congressmen could transfer funds from their House campaign accounts if they run. Both Rokita and Messer have more than $1 million dollars on hand, with Rokita just $73,000 behind Donnelly's total.

Donnelly is one of 10 Democratic senators up for reelection next year in states carried by Donald Trump, and one of the most closely watched within that group.

Indiana Republicans have had contested primaries in each of the last three U.S. Senate elections. A run by any of the congressmen would set off an open primary to replace them in the House.

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

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