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Pence Alumni, Veterans Battle for Rokita's Seat

Senate race sets up seven-way GOP primary in Fourth District

(ZIONSVILLE, Ind.) - Two members of Governor Mike Pence's administration, a state representative, and a Bronze Star recipient are among seven Republicans battling to replace Todd Rokita in Congress.


Rokita is leaving the House to run for Senate. Former Pence aide Diego Morales, former workforce development commissioner Steve Braun and Greencastle Representative Jim Baird have all amassed six-figure war chests. Retired Army captain Jared Thomas set a self-imposed cap of 50-thousand dollars and has raised a third of that so far They're competing for a seat which covers 16 counties in west central Indiana, from Kokomo to the Illinois line.


Morales emigrated from Guatemala 19 years ago. He says he personifies the American dream. He says he'd make that dream possible for others by giving business owners the tools to create jobs, including deregulation and repeal of the federal health care law.


Steve Braun built a data-analysis business before becoming a state rep and then workforce development commissioner under Pence and Governor Holcomb. He says he used his data skills in those positions, and would use the same skill set in Washington to seek solutions to job training and health care.


Greencastle Representative Jim Baird owns a farm and a home health-care business. He says that's given him an understanding of the range of taxes businesses cope with, from individual and corporate income taxes to sales and payroll taxes. He says he's running to be a voice for limited government.


All three include immigration among their top priorities, and support President Trump's call for a border wall. Braun says the U-S should look at technological enhancements, not just a wall. Morales notes he followed the rules to become a U-S citizen, and says those who haven't should "go to the back of the line" and go through the same lengthy process to be considered. He and Baird both emphasize their opposition to the diversity visa lottery and so-called "chain migration," with family members entering the U-S one at a time.


But Baird and Jared Thomas say Congress should grant legal status to DREAMers -- people brought to the U-S as children who know of no other country as home. And Thomas, like Baird a decorated veteran, is hesitant about the wall. He says the U-S needs to step up border security, but says while illegal border crossings are lower at points where a barrier exists, there hasn't been an analysis of whether the benefits of an ocean-to-gulf wall would justify the cost. He says his top immigration priority would be to fast-track citizenship for foreign nationals who have risked their lives to serve the U-S as interpreters.


Thomas says he's an outsider twice over -- it's his first run for office, and at age 28, he says he can bring a new perspective. He says the fundraising cap and a pledge to serve no more than three terms would ensure his independence from the special interests he accuses of exerting excessive influence. And he argues it'll take younger lawmakers to reform Social Security after years of inaction, because older members have already paid too much into the system to visualize overhauling it. He says he'd look at private or hybrid public-private retirement plans.


Braun, Morales and Baird applaud the recent tax reform bill for allowing individuals and businesses to keep more of their own money. But Braun says he's concerned that Congress ignored deficit considerations to pass the plan, and says Congress needs to recommit itself to bringing red ink under control.


Two-time Rokita challenger Kevin Grant, former Libertarian James Nease, and political newcomer Tim Radice are also on the ballot.

(Photo: Getty Images)

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