Indiana gubernatorial candidates Eric Doden and U.S. Sen. Mike Braun traded jabs Wednesday over the legal practice of qualified immunity and the use of state tax dollars in economic development—an escalation in the 2024 race to succeed Gov. Eric Holcomb.
Doden released a video endorsement from Henry County Sheriff John Sproles decrying Braun’s 2020 bill to reform qualified immunity, which shields police officers from allegations of misconduct by requiring a higher standard of proof.
“Like many of you, I supported and voted for Mike Braun, but like too many career politicians who go to Washington D.C., he turned his back on us when we needed him most,” Sproles said in the 90-second video. “Instead of standing up to the radical liberals in Washington who wanted to make our jobs harder, Braun took up their cause… (introducing) legislation to make it easier for left wing activists to sue police officers.”
Braun clawed back the legislative proposal following pushback after initially presenting it as a way to reform a practice that allowed law enforcement to “illegally deprive citizens of (Constitutional) rights, privileges and immunities,” according to reporting from Indiana Public Broadcasting.
“I do not support stripping qualified immunity protections that make it easier to unfairly sue law enforcement officers for doing their job,” Doden says on his campaign website.
Brad Chambers, the former Secretary of Commerce, released a multipoint public safety plan Wednesday, with one section dedicated to his plan to codify qualified immunity into law.
In response, Braun’s campaign said he’s “promised to always protect qualified immunity and stand up for law enforcement as governor, to claim anything else is simply desperate politics and a lie.”
A statement from Josh Kelley, Braun’s chief of staff and senior political advisor for his campaign, notes Braun’s Thin Blue Line Act this year received the endorsement of the National Troopers Coalition and former President Donald Trump, “the most pro-law enforcement President our country has every seen.”
“Just this week Mike was invited by the Indiana Sheriffs Association to visit the border with them to see how illegal immigration is putting Hoosiers in danger. Mike supports our men and women in law enforcement and will as Governor,” Kelley concluded.
Braun took his own shot at Doden, launching a one-page site paid for by his campaign and taking a page from former President Donald Trump by dubbing his opponent “Desperate Doden.”
“Desperate Eric Doden has been using donations from people who received taxpayer-funded benefits while he was running the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and Greater Fort Wayne to fund his campaign to hide from his liberal record, his support for Communist China and his past shady business dealings while service in taxpayer-funded roles,” the site reads.
Doden served as the Secretary of Commerce, which leads the Indiana Economic Development Corp., under former Gov. Mike Pence.
Braun’s site goes on to call Doden a “crooked, Pro-China RINO,” using the disparaging shorthand for “Republican In Name Only,” and claims he awarded millions in incentives to businesses in foreign countries.
When asked for a response, Doden’s campaign dismissed the website in a statement to the Indiana Capital Chronicle.
“Mike Braun’s betrayal of law enforcement by siding with far-left radicals to end qualified immunity is disqualifying to his campaign, so he’ll try to smear any cop or candidate with the audacity to call him on it,” the campaign said.
The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.