Fiery moments mixed with substance in the Republican U.S. Senate candidate debate

(Kayla Blakeslee/95.3 MNC)

The three candidates vying for the Republican nomination all took the stage Monday night in the third of four U.S. Senate debates in Indiana. The forum, held at the Ramada Hotel in Fort Wayne, featured a panel of journalists from across the state presenting questions to businessman Mike Braun, U.S. Rep. Luke Messer and U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita.

The candidates had 60 seconds to respond to each question.

The major topics covered were immigration, opioids, school and gun safety, foreign policy, tariffs, term limits, and the wall. 

“Who do you think among us on the stage is gonna be more like Pres. Trump?” asked Braun. All three candidates have said they believe that is what the race is about, and this time Braun asserted himself more in that regard. “Who has built their cred in the private sector? Who has got the pathway that makes them an independent thinker?”

Messer again declared himself to be Trump’s biggest buddy in the House, invoking Trump in a question about opioid abuse.

“It’s another example where Pres. Trump is leading. He’s declared this a national emergency and we’re getting after a serious plan to deal with this crisis,” said Messer. The opioid discussion may have been the deepest of the debate, with Rokita declaring it a cultural problem, unsolvable by simply throwing more money at it.

Businessman Mike Braun

“We have a cultural problem that we have to correct. We ought to be enlisting clergy, non-profys, community and neighborhoods and not just rely of the federal government, or we’ll fail,” said Rokta, adding. “Yes, it’s a disease. Yes, it’s a law enforcement component. The last thing we should do is be legalizing marijuana. That would only exacerbate the problem.”

All three agreed that opioid addiction is a disease and treatment should be part of the solution.

“You’re gonna need somebody that will go there not afraid to speak up, because that lobby is one of the strongest out there,” said Braun, declaring he’s not beholding to any drug companies and that they should share some of the responsibility.

The Rokita yard signs were addressed in comments from Messer.

“Last week, in an extraordinary step, Pres. Trump’s campaign admonished him and told him to take down advertisements because he was faking the president’s support,” said Messer. Rokita retorted with, “I talk with Pres. Trump a lot, and we don’t talk about yard signs.”

U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita

Rokita twice denied he was asked to take down signs that looked as if the Trump/Pence re-election team had endorsed him.

The next and final debate is the one in which Rokita initially refused to be a participant-April 30, at WFYI studios in Indianapolis, hosted by the Indiana Debate Commission

The winner of the Republican nomination will challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly in November.

if you missed the debate, you can download it here.

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