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Mike Braun wins Indiana Senate race, ousting incumbent Joe Donnelly

November 6, 2018
Donnelly and Braun 550 px
Mike Braun (right) has been declared the winner over Joe Donnelly in Indiana's U.S. Senate race.

Republican Mike Braun has won Indiana's Senate race over Democratic incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly with a surprisingly wide margin in a race expected to be tight.

Donnelly's defeat was a significant blow to Democrats in their quest to wrest control of the Senate away from Republicans.

ABC News first declared Braun the winner at 8:45 p.m., even as results from key Democratic counties remained unreported. But Donnelly conceded at about 9:30 p.m.

“I called Mike Braun to let him know I will do everything I can to make sure there is a smooth transition, because that’s what the people of Indiana deserve,” Donnelly said to the crowd of supporters Tuesday night.

Donnelly spoke to supporters for only about two minutes but said he was the "luckiest guy in the world." 

By 11 p.m., with 84 percent of the vote counted, Braun had 52.7 percent to Donnelly's 43.3 percent. Libertarian Lucy Brenton had about 4 percent of the vote.

Sen.-elect Mike Braun told the GOP crowd that he won't let them down. He said politics has gotten way too nasty on both sides. “It should be about ideas," he said. "It should be about what you bring to the table.”

The crowd responded: “Amen."

At the same time, however, the tweet pinned to the top of Braun's Twitter account says that "career politicians like Joe Donnelly will say anything to keep their jobs."

Later, he said again that politics has "gotten too nasty."

“We’ve got to start looking at what people have done and what they’re going to bring to the table and get rid of the money and the negativity that comes with it," he said.

Braun said he believes he has a unique chance to change Washington, D.C. 

“We won with a comfortable margin, and I believe Hoosiers like the fact that there’s a new agenda in Washington, D.C., and its’ going to take time to play out," Braun said.

Braun, owner of Jasper-based Meyer Distributing, portrayed himself as the outsider, similar to President Donald Trump, throughout the entire campaign. The 64-year-old Jasper native frequently talked about his business experience and told voters they could trust him to bring results to Washington, D.C., because he’s “done it in the real world.”

The race generated significant national attention all year, as Republicans eyed it as a seat they could win, because Trump won Indiana by 19 points in 2016. Democrats had hoped to keep the seat under their control in their bid to gain control of the Senate.

Between the candidates and outside groups, more than $100 million was spent on the race this year.

Top political surrogates, including Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, South Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Trump sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and New Jersey Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker barnstormed the state in recent weeks to campaign for the candidates.

Donnelly won the seat, which was formerly held by Republican Richard Lugar, in 2012 against Republican Richard Mourdock. Some political analysts thought Donnelly only won in 2012 because of Mourdock’s controversial comment about rape in a debate days before the election.

This year, Donnelly walked a fine line between courting Democrats and Republicans. He regularly reminded voters about how often he voted with Trump, and in several ads, he talked about supporting the border wall and opposing radical liberals. But he voted against Trump’s tax cuts and against U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“It’s a tough loss, because Joe’s one of the hardest working public servants I’ve ever seen,” Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said.

Braun’s path into politics started in 2004 when he joined the Greater Jasper Consolidated School District board. He served on the board for 10 years, and then ran for state representative in the 63rd district.

He served as a state legislator for three years, resigning from the position in 2017 to run for the U.S. Senate.  

He poured millions of dollars of his own money into the race. Through Oct. 25, he had either loaned or donated a total of $11.5 million to the campaign.

Braun defeated Republican U.S. Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer in the primary.

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