Mike Braun wins comfortably despite notching the second lowest support and fourth smallest victory margin in state party history

Indiana Republican U.S. Senator Mike Braun moved one step closer to becoming one of the fewer than two-dozen sitting or ex-U.S. Senators elected governor since 1900, after winning his party’s nomination on Tuesday.

Braun faced a loaded field of six candidates and won with 39.3 percent – just the third time in state party history the GOP gubernatorial nominee did not receive majority support at the primary.

Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch received 21.9 percent, with 17.6 percent of voters backing former state Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers, 12.1 percent for ex-Indiana Economic Development Corporation president Eric Doden, 4.9 percent for Indianapolis conservative activist Jamie Reitenour, and 4.2 percent for former state Attorney General Curtis Hill.

The 2024 Republican field for the open gubernatorial seat was tied for the second largest in party history out of the 17 primaries conducted across two interrupted waves: 1916 through 1928 and 1976 to the present. [Gubernatorial nominees were selected by state party convention for the 1932 through 1972 cycles].

The state primary law was repealed following the turbulent 1928 cycle which saw 10 GOP candidates split the vote, led by Secretary of State Frederick Schortemeier with only 24.6 percent.

A six-ballot convention taking more than 11 continuous hours eventually saw support consolidate around fifth place primary finisher and State House Speaker Harry Leslie (10.9 percent).

[Six candidates also ran for the Republican nomination in 1924, in a primary won by Secretary of State Ed Jackson].

The only other cycle in which a Republican candidate did not win an outright majority of the gubernatorial primary vote was in 1992 when three-term state Attorney General Linley Pearson received 48.9 percent against Superintendent of Public Instruction H. Dean Evans and Valparaiso businessman John Johnson.

Linley lost in a blowout that November to Governor Evan Bayh.

Braun’s 17.4-point victory over Lt. Gov. Crouch was the fourth smallest victory margin following the aforementioned 1928 (6.4 points) and 1992 (15.4 points) plurality contests and the 17.1-point win by Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith over former state GOP Chair Rex Early in 1996.

Democrats, meanwhile, nominated former GOP Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick who ran unopposed on Tuesday.

In fact, eight of the last nine Democratic nominees for governor in the state have run without opposition: Evan Bayh (1992), Frank O’Bannon (1996, 2000), Joe Kernan (2004), John Gregg (2012, 2016), and Woody Myers (2020).

Also on the November ballot will be Libertarian Donald Rainwater. Rainwater received 11.4 percent of the 2020 gubernatorial vote – the second highest tally for the office in party history and just the third time a Libertarian has reached double-digits in a race for governor.

In fact, Rainwater joins Alaska’s Dick Randolph (14.9 percent, 1982) and Wisconsin’s Ed Thompson (10.5 percent, 2002) as the only Libertarians to receive more than 6.5 percent in a gubernatorial election.

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  1. Cecil Crusher on May 9, 2024 at 2:51 am

    – “…1976 to the present” Apparently, other executive officers are still nominated at state party convention rather than primary elections. Which other state(s) today has(have) such ‘hybrid’ nominating mechanism?

    – While state Democrats arguably face uphill struggles in both positions, it would make intuitive sense that their prospects are comparatively more hopeful in the gubernatorial than the US senate contest; the post is a more localized one than a congressional seat, and the D nominee (Jennifer McCormick) is a former Republican who has previously won statewide, who might have enough appeal to non-MAGA suburban independents and centrists.

    • Daniel Fox on May 9, 2024 at 6:30 pm

      “Which other state(s) today has(have) such ‘hybrid’ nominating mechanism?”

      Michigan and South Dakota. Both states use state conventions (held after the primary) to nominate all statewide candidates except those for governor and U.S. senator.

      Also, Iowa *technically* uses the state convention to nominate the lieutenant governor, who then runs on a ticket with the winner of the gubernatorial primary. Since this procedure began in 1990, the conventions have always nominated the LG candidate endorsed by the gubernatorial nominee. However, the other statewide elected officials are nominated by primary.

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