Centrist PAC endorses Chambers in gubernatorial primary race


By Niki Kelly, Indiana Capital Chronicle

The political action committee of a bipartisan group looking to moderate candidates on both sides of the spectrum on Wednesday endorsed Brad Chambers for the 2024 GOP nomination for governor.

The bipartisan centrist organization, Recenter Indiana, also launched controversial billboards in three more cities—Fort Wayne, South Bend and Bloomington—urging “even Democrats” to vote in this spring’s Republican primary. Last week, signs went up in Indianapolis, Evansville and Merrillville.

“We weren’t sure we would be endorsing anyone” in the six-way Republican race for governor, said Adrianne Slash, a Republican on the ReCenter PAC’s board. “But we decided we need to make the same decision we were asking our fellow primary voters to make – to choose the candidate who best aligns with our anti-extremist values.”

The endorsement reads, in part: “Too many politicians, including others in this spring’s crowded Republican primary, are pounding on inflammatory cultural issues that divide – rather than help – the people of this state. Not Chambers. The veteran businessman is focusing instead on boosting the state’s economy, thus improving the lives of Hoosiers.”

Democrat Linda Heitzman, a member of the ReCenter PAC board, said not everyone sees eye-to-eye with Chambers on every issue.

“But all of us are deeply troubled by other Republican candidates’ pandering to a narrow, intolerant, divisive fringe. And if we want to bring our state’s politics back toward the middle, where polls tell us most Hoosiers are, the place to start is in the GOP primary.”

ReCenter Indiana, which was launched in 2022, last week announced billboards in major cities advising that “Even Democrats can vote in the Republican primary.”

The displays refer to the group’s website, where the endorsement appears. There, Hoosiers can also read available information on candidates in a handful of contested primary races for the Indiana legislature.

In 2022, the PAC endorsed candidates from both sides of the aisle and gave about $20,000 to Democrat Destiny Wells, who was running for Secretary of State. In this cycle, Wells is one of the candidates hoping to unseat Attorney General Todd Rokita.

In addition to the billboards, social media users are seeing video ads from the ReCenter Indiana PAC on Instagram and Facebook. It’s all to advise Hoosiers that, unlike some other states, Indiana’s primary elections are “open.” This means that registered voters can request a Republican ballot when they prepare to vote this spring.

In the 2020 race for governor, only 24 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the primary.

“We can do better than that,” says Azher Khan, a Republican member of ReCenter’s PAC board. “For the sake of all our futures, we need to do better than that.”

Early voting continues through May 6. This year’s primary is May 7.

Republicans and Democrats alike have pushed back on the move.

Jocelyn Vare, chair of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, released a statement saying “We unequivocally ask all Democratic voters to vote Democrat in the primary. Important races are at stake.”

Pulling a Republican ballot in the upcoming primary mars election data, negatively impacts the fundraising potential of current Democratic candidates, and creates unnecessary confusion for both parties ahead of the general election, her news release said. Additionally, if a Democratic voter opts to pull a Republican ballot in the upcoming primary, they could be ineligible to run as a member of their party in future races.

“The Hamilton County Republican Party chair and I are aligned in our opposition of ReCenter Indiana’s campaign. We agree that such deceptive tactics cannot be allowed to influence the outcome of this or future elections,” Vare said.

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.