Congressman Luke Messer flopped into his Senate primary campaign yesterday, announcing via tweet from Washington, DC that he would run and prompting local media to dig even further into the coming “expensive and bitter” GOP primary fight. Both Messer’s announcement and his website, which allege the 5th-ranking House Republican is fighting “the establishment” with his votes to raise Hoosier’s health insurance premiums 25 percent next year and institute an age tax that could force seniors to pay up to 5 times more, was followed later in the day by a video of his campaign finance chair, but no sign of the candidate himself.
With such a rudderless rollout, it’s no wonder that Hoosiers are instead reading about the many ways in which this petty, “brutal” primary is sure to damage both Congressman Messer and his soon-to-announce opponent, Congressman Todd Rokita.
AP: Indiana Rep. Luke Messer announces 2018 Senate bid.
“Already the GOP primary is shaping up to be a brutal affair that could lead to months of Republicans fighting each other more than the incumbent Donnelly. Messer and fellow GOP Rep. Todd Rokita — who is also preparing a bid — for weeks have traded insults and accusations, with both suggesting that the other is ‘unhinged.’
In a recent email blast to supporters, Messer said he was ‘tired of Todd Rokita lying about my family.’ That came after Rokita raised questions about Messer’s decision to relocate his family to suburban Washington D.C. after his 2012 election. Rokita also questioned a lucrative contract Messer’s wife Jennifer holds with an Indianapolis suburb for part-time legal work she does from home.
The Associated Press first reported in May about Jennifer Messer’s contract with the city of Fishers, which pays her $240,000 a year to work as a part-time contract attorney, a sum that is vastly more than either of the city’s two staff attorneys are paid — or many other government lawyers in the state.
‘Todd’s attacks on me are especially remarkable because we’ve known each other for twenty-nine years,” Messer wrote. “What’s changed? Now Todd Rokita wants to run for the U.S. Senate, and it’s clear that he will do and say almost anything to advance his political career.’
Rokita responded with a missive of his own, writing, ‘When someone politically connected is pocketing $240,000 per year in taxpayer money for part-time work, Hoosiers have a right to ask questions.’
Meanwhile, Messer’s campaign was more focused on attacks from Rokita.
‘I think when those people see some of the nonsense and negativity that comes from the Todd Rokita campaign they are going to be turned off,’ said Messer campaign spokesman Jason Kneeland.”
Indiana Public Media: Indiana Rep. Luke Messer Announces 2018 U.S. Senate Bid.
“The run-up to Messer’s announcement has been marked by rancor between the federal lawmakers: Messer accused Rokita of lying about his family, saying he lacks integrity. Rokita’s camp fired back, calling Messer ‘unhinged’ and a ‘ticking time-bomb.’”
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: Messer announces Senate bid.
“Messer had been publicly mulling an announcement for months. He formed a statewide campaign finance committee and has been engaged in a bitter back-and-forth with his probable rival in next May’s GOP primary election, U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita.”
Read the DSCC’s primer on Congressman Messer and the Indiana GOP primary here.
Speaking of a nasty primary… After spending a week sending dueling emails attacking each other, Congressmen Rokita and Messer took their public feud to Wikipedia. From Tuesday’s Indy Star:
“A slew of recent edits to Rep. Luke Messer’s Wikipedia page closely align with his likely primary opponent Todd Rokita’s campaign attacks, setting off a new round of finger pointing in what is expected to be one of the most hotly contested U.S. Senate races in the country…
The Rokita campaign has routinely criticized Messer in recent months as a ‘lobbyist turned politician’ who left Indiana for ‘one of the wealthiest suburbs of Washington D.C.’
Messer’s campaign, meanwhile, has shot back, accusing Rokita of peddling negative stories and attacking Messer’s family. At one point, an official with the Messer campaign told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that ‘Rokita has a history of making unhinged comments.’”
The brawl is getting in-state attention, making the front page of two local papers.
Fort Wayne News-Sentinel: EDITORIAL: Senate race not starting at a high level.
WIBC: Messer v. Rokita.
The Hill: Reps clash in Indiana Republican primary.
The Hill: Indiana GOP rep: Likely primary opponent ‘lying about my family’.
Kokomo Tribune: Letter: Rokita spreads lies to advance career.
Roll Call: Indiana Headed for Another Member-on-Member Senate Primary.
National Journal: Indiana Republicans Gear Up for Another Senate Primary.
The Hill: GOP rep to potential Senate rival: Don’t run.
Roll Call: Rokita and Messer Trade Accusations.
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: Republicans with eye on Senate heat up their feud.
Washington Post: Rokita and Messer have “already started attacking each other in pretty dramatic ways, like accusing the other of planting negative stories or making ‘unhinged’ comments.”
Politico: Similarities between Reps. Messer and Rokita is “breeding contempt”.