A Look Behind Indiana’s 2024 GOP US Senate Primary
Mike Braun’s exit from the U.S. Senate and planned pathway to the governorship are unusual in Indiana politics
Indiana has received a fair share of early 2024 election buzz with Republican U.S. Senator Mike Braun announcing he would not run for a second term and several big names subsequently campaigning for or expressing interest in his fairly safe GOP seat.
U.S. Representative Jim Banks launched his campaign earlier this week while delegation colleague Victoria Spartz as well as sitting Governor Eric Holcomb and former Governor Mitch Daniels are all reportedly eying bids.
Braun’s exit from the chamber after just one term is fairly unusual – as is his attempted pathway to win the governorship, the office for which he is now running in 2024.
Two years ago, Smart Politics documented the very limited number of cases of sitting or former U.S. Senators who have gone on to win gubernatorial elections since the turn of the 20th Century (less than two-dozen). Overall, governors-turned-U.S. Senators outnumber U.S. Senators-turned-governors by more than 7:1 since 1900.
Braun is also just the third Indiana U.S. Senator in the direct election era to decline to run for a second term in the chamber.
In January 1944, former Democratic Attorney General Samuel Jackson was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Governor Henry Schricker following the death of Democratic Senator Frederick Van Nuys.
Jackson did not run in the 1944 special or general elections to keep his seat and instead ran for governor that November. He was defeated by Republican attorney Ralph Gates by 2.8 points.
Two years later, in 1946, first-term Republican Senator Raymond Willis retired from public office and returned to operating his printing business.
Every other U.S. Senator from Indiana prior to Braun sought to hold onto their seat when their first term expired.
[Note: In 2016, Republican Dan Coats did not run for reelection for what would be a fourth nonconsecutive term. He had already served two terms in the chamber from 1988 to 1999].
The remaining 17 first-term Indiana U.S. Senators who ran for another term in the direct election era are:
- 1916: Democrat John Kern (lost general)
- 1916 (special): Democrat Thomas Taggart (lost special)
- 1920: Republican James Watson (elected)
- 1922: Republican Harry New (lost primary)
- 1926 (special): Republican Arthur Robinson (elected)
- 1938: Democrat Frederick Van Nuys (elected)
- 1940: Democrat Sherman Minton (lost general)
- 1950: Republican Homer Capehart (elected)
- 1952: Republican William Jenner (elected)
- 1964: Democrat Vance Hartke (elected)
- 1968: Democrat Birch Bayh (elected)
- 1982: Republican Dick Lugar (elected)
- 1986: Republican Dan Quayle (elected)
- 1990 (special): Republican Dan Coats (elected)
- 2004: Democrat Evan Bayh (elected)
- 2018: Democrat Joe Donnelly (lost general)
- 2022: Republican Todd Young (elected)
No sitting or former Indiana U.S. Senator has won a gubernatorial election since 1900.
Indiana’s primary will be held in May 2024.
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Notes: 1) In 1990 then-appointee “Dan” Coats was first elected to the remainder of an unexpired term rather than to “another term”; 2) In 1952 “Bill” Jenner was re-elected to his THIRD term (he was first elected to a partial term in 1944 to succeed “Sam” Jackson, who declined to stand for another term as mentioned in text.
RE: Coats – I think “subsequent term” might be the best language in this case. RE: William Jenner – I included him in the list of 17 because he was unable to “hold onto their seat when their first term expired” as he was elected to his first term concurrent with Homer Capehart in November 1944; Capehart won the full term. Hence, there was no opportunity for Jennings to run for a subsequent term as an incumbent until 1952.
Eric, I think I speak on behalf of all of us when I say thank you for all of your hard work in putting these articles together. I know that it takes a lot of research to do this stuff. I came across your site in 2017 about a year after I started watching politics reading a story about the AL senate special race that year. I hope that your able to continue for years to come.
1 question I have is that you cut off the ability to comment on an article after a certain amount of time, I’m just curious as to why that is?
Thanks for your kind words (and interesting information you’ve provided on so many posts), Connor – I appreciate it! I did not knowingly turn off comments on articles after x amount of time, so that must have been a default setting that I never realized. I will look into getting that fixed this week. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.
Apparently WordPress defaults to shutting off comments after 28 days. That box is now unchecked. Thanks again for pointing this out, Connor!
Definitely! I must’ve come across this site a few months after you, Connor; I had been wondering what precedent there was for Romney’s senate bid (governor of one state and senator for another) and so found my way here in March or April of 2018. It’s been great fun since, and I hope we’re all able to keep doing this for a long time. Thank you Dr. Eric!
Four years after Jackson sought the governor post, another incumbent senator – nominal second-termer William Ezra Jenner – stood for election for IN governor on his second try, losing the Republican nomination at the state party convention in 1948.
“…Eric Holcomb…eyeing bids” Successful POLITICAL OFFICE SWITCHES, at least at the statewide and congressional levels, have been quite rare indeed. Some instances:
* AR/2022: Republican attorney general Leslie Carol Rutledge was elected lieutenant governor (after bowing out of the governor election), as fellow Republican lieutenant governor John Timothy Griffin was elected attorney general;
* DE/1992: Democratic AL representative Thomas Richard Carper was elected governor, as Republican governor Michael Newbold Castle was elected to the AL seat;
* ME/1986: Republican Southern District (CD-1) representative John Rettie McKernan was elected governor, as Democratic governor Joseph Edward Brennan was elected to the seat held by McKernan.
A famously unsuccessful instance occurred in CA in 1958, when “the Senator from Formosa” (leader of Republican Conference “Bill” Knowland) sought the governorship while fellow Republican Governor “Goodie” Knight sought the Senate seat. The party faced strong headwinds both on the national and local levels, and both lost by at least 10% to their Democratic opponents.
As for the Braun-Holcomb swap??
OH/2002: Republican State auditor Jim Petro and Republican AG Betty Montgomery.
*PA/1964: treasurer Grace M. Sloan (D) and auditor-general Thomas Z. Minehart (D).
An unsuccessful example:
*CA/2006: lieutenant governor Cruz Bustamante (D) and insurance commissioner John Garamendi (D). Garamendi won, but Bustamante lost the general election to Steve Poizner (R).
On the local level, office switches are actually quite common, especially in states that have enacted (consecutive) term limits for state legislators; pols who wish to stay in office can do so by switching seats with someone in the opposite chamber.
One extreme example of this: Ohio has eight-year consecutive term limits in the House and Senate, so Kirk Schuring (R) and Scott Oelslager (R) have switched seats with each other *three* times (2002, 2010, 2018). [Schuring: rep. 1995-2002, sen. 2003-10, rep. 2011-18, sen. 2019-present. Oelslager: sen. 1985-2002, rep. 2003-10, sen. 2011-18, rep. 2019-present.] We shall see whether they attempt a fourth switch in 2026.
“Indirect” office switches are amusing, too:
*OH/1970: U.S. Rep. Buz Lukens (R) ran for governor but lost in the primary. State senator Walter E. Powell (R) won the House seat and thus resigned from the state senate, and Lukens was appointed to replace him. [Lukens was later elected back to the House, serving until he lost renomination amidst scandal in 1990 to John Boehner.]
*NY/2002: state senator Pedro Espada, Jr. (D) lost re-election to city councilor Rubén Díaz, Sr. (D). Díaz thus resigned his council seat, which Espada then successfully ran for in a special election in February 2003. [Espada was later elected back to the senate and played a central role in the leadership dispute of 2009.]
*KS/2006: attorney-general Phill Kline (R) lost re-election to Johnson County district attorney Paul J. Morrison (D). Kline was appointed to replace Morrison as district attorney, serving until he lost the primary for a full term in 2008.
The closest I could find to a senator/governor swap like Braun/Holcomb, though, is:
*NY/1946: Sen. James M. Mead (D) ran for governor against first-term incumbent Thomas E. Dewey (R), while recent former Gov. Herbert H. Lehman (D) ran for Mead’s Senate seat. They both lost. (This is probably a better parallel for if Mitch Daniels is the nominee for the Senate seat in 2024.)
Quick followup on Lukens and Powell — Powell retired form the House in 1974. Two years later Lukens’ state senate seat was up, and you will never guess who ran against him in the primary.
Walter E. Powell.