Indiana's GOP Senate candidates expected to meet at January forum

(from left) Mark Hurt, Rep. Luke Messer, Mike Braun, Rep. Todd Rokita, and Andrew Takami. All five men threw their hats into the ring to run for the 2018 GOP nomination for U.S. Senate to challenge Democrat incumbent Joe Donnelly.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Indiana's five remaining GOP Senate candidates are expected to make their first joint appearance in January.

Hundreds of Republican grassroots activists will meet for the Indian Republican Party's Congress of Counties in downtown Indianapolis Friday and Saturday, Jan. 12-13. The candidates will have a chance to speak at a noon luncheon on Saturday closing the event. The gathering of local party leaders, candidates, volunteers and activists will then vote in a straw poll indicating which candidate they're most likely to support in the May 8 primary.

“Our U.S. Senate straw poll will provide political watchers with the first grassroots barometer to measure early support in this high-profile, statewide race that has national implications,” Indiana Republican Party State Chairman Kyle Hupfer said in a statement.

"I am confident that our eventual Republican Party nominee will defeat Democrat Donnelly next November – and events like this will help Hoosiers determine who that candidate will be," he continued.

Four of the five candidates have confirmed they'll be at the event: Rep. Luke Messer; former State Rep. Mike Braun; Mark Hurt, an attorney and former advisor to Sen. Dan Coats; and Andrew Takami, director of Purdue Polytechnic - New Albany. Rep. Todd Rokita has also been invited to attend and participate but hasn't yet confirmed if he will.

Terry Henderson, a businessman who works at Down AgroSciences, threw his hat into the ring for the GOP Senate nomination earlier this year but suspended his campaign in November, according to The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne.

All five remaining candidates have already agreed to take part in an April 23 debate, which is two weeks before the May 8 primary. The winner of the Republican primary will face off against presumptive Democratic candidate, Sen. Joe Donnelly.