Candidates emerge to compete for Messer’s congressional seat

Now that U.S. Rep. Luke Messer has officially jumped into the U.S. Senate race, hopeful Republicans are lining up to compete to take his seat in Congress in 2018.

Messer currently serves in Indiana’s sixth congressional district, which stretches from the far-east side of Marion County to the Ohio border, and also covers Muncie and Columbus. It is considered to be a safe Republican district.

State Sen. Mike Crider, who represents portions of Shelby, Marion and Hancock counties, has jumped into the race, posting on Facebook last Thursday that “after much prayer and deliberation I have decided I will compete to fill that vacancy.”

Meanwhile, Muncie businessman Jonathan Lamb also has entered the race. Lamb owns OptoeV Inc., a provider of battery-powered electric farm equipment. He’s billing himself as a conservative who wants to work with the Trump administration to “stop the swamp from invading our farm fields and communities."

And Greg Pence, Vice President Mike Pence’s brother, is also considered to be another potential candidate, but he’s staying mum about it.

Greg Pence, of Columbus, told IBJ Wednesday that “a lot of people have asked me to consider i,t” but that he’s currently focused on being statewide finance chairman for Messer’s Senate campaign.

“I’m just going to stay focused on this launch, our third-quarter fundraising for Luke, and our race against Joe Donnelly at this time,” Pence said.

Crider, who previously was a conservation officer and colonel at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said he believes the race will be competitive.

"This decision comes at a time when our country is deeply divided, so I have no illusions that competing for the position or serving in it will be anything other than incredibly difficult,” Crider said in the post.

State GOP chairman Kyle Hupfer said the party "fully intends to hold onto that seat."

The party will not endorse a candidate in the primary, he said, and "our focus will be to help (the eventual winner) get across the finish line."

He said he expects several Republicans will compete.

"I would expect an open congressional seat to bring out a number of folks," Hupfer said.

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