Republican businessman Mike Braun ousted Sen. Joe Donnelly, Indiana’s lone statewide elected Democrat, in a race in which both candidates portrayed themselves as fans of President Donald Trump.
The defeat of the Democratic incumbent likely will help the GOP solidify its hold on the U.S. Senate, having begun Tuesday’s elections with a two-seat advantage.
The race was one of the most-watched in the country, in a state that Donald Trump won by 19 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
In recent weeks, Donnelly had to beat back several visits by Trump to Indiana to support Braun, a businessman from far southern Indiana.
Donnelly’s message to appeal to Republican voters was that he votes with Trump 62 percent of the time on legislation and more than 70 percent of the time on judicial nominations. However, he did vote against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.
The result was a victory the GOP had dreamed of ever since Donnelly unexpectedly won in 2012, after Republican nominee Richard Mourdock made incendiary comments about abortion and rape.
But few would have predicted Braun’s win when he entered the race last year. The multimillionaire auto parts magnate was a little-known state representative when he launched his bid.
Braun used his own wealth to out-fundraise two better-known congressmen during a bitter GOP primary that was fueled on personal attacks.
Indiana has elected conservative Democrats but increasingly trended Republican in recent years.
In his concession speech in Indianapolis on Tuesday evening, Donnelly said, “We had the chance to serve everybody across our state and to be able to try to make a difference in their lives with healthcare and so many good things. The people of our state are so wonderful. I called Mike Braun to know that I will do everything I can to make sure there’s a smooth transition because that’s what the people of Indiana deserve. ”
A big issue with Indiana voters during the campaign was trade. Although steelworkers in northwest Indiana supported Trump’s tariffs on foreign steel, many farmers complained the tariffs were hurting them.