Editorial: GOP governor candidates need to move beyond federal issues

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Indiana���s top five Republican gubernatorial candidates speak at a forum on Jan. 26, 2024. From left to right: U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, businessman Brad Chambers, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, businessman Eric Doden and former Attorney General Curtis Hill. (Photos by Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle; graphic by Leslie Bonilla Mu��iz/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Indianapolis Business Journal

Five leading candidates are seeking the Republican nomination for Indiana governor in what promises to be the liveliest and most expensive GOP primary race in state history.

IBJ has profiled each of them over the course of the past few months. The final installment, a profile of U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, appears in this week’s edition.

The profiles have provided interesting insights into each of the candidates, a field that also includes former Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden and former Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill.

Much of the campaign so far has focused on whether and to what degree a candidate is committed to former President Donald Trump, where they stand on immigration policy and how they would protect the state from a potential Chinese threat.

While each of those issues certainly has some impact on the state, what we’d really like to hear more about is their vision for Indiana: how they would approach economic development, what should be done to address the state’s workforce shortage and how to solve a growing literacy problem in K-12 education.

Among the loudest debates, though, is who is most solidly behind Trump.

Trump has endorsed Braun for governor, so it’s clear where Braun stands. Doden and Hill say they have long supported Trump. Crouch formally endorsed Trump after his win in the New Hampshire primary. Chambers hasn’t issued an endorsement, according to the Indiana Capital Chronicle.

On China, Chambers and Hill both have proposed policies aimed at banning China-affiliated people or entities from owning any or certain kinds of property in Indiana, according to The Times of Northwest Indiana. Braun has called for a ban on all travel between China and the United States.

On immigration policy, Braun and Doden have taken frequent swipes at each other. More recently, the Chambers campaign has accused Braun of playing politics with immigration policy by speaking out against a proposed bipartisan deal that was emerging in the Senate but appears imperiled by Trump’s opposition.

While those hot-button issues might motivate voters, they divert attention from important issues closer to home.

Our hope is that voters, journalists and debate moderators will all do more in the coming weeks to push the candidates to have robust discussions on economic development policy and other key issues that will determine the economic trajectory of our state.

Those debates should occur not only in the Republican primary but also when the GOP nominee faces the presumptive Democratic nominee, Jennifer McCormick, in the fall.

Our state needs open debate and dialogue to come up with best ways to stop the slide in reading skills among the state’s third-graders, figure out how to produce the skilled workforce needed to continue to attract big-time economic investment and craft a long-term economic vision that will lift all boats.