Luke Messer joins race for Donnelly's Senate seat

U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind. (official photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Rep. Luke Messer publicly threw his hat into the ring Wednesday for Joe Donnelly's seat in the U.S. Senate.

The campaign Twitter account for Messer, R-Ind., posted a photo with what may be an early campaign slogan, "I Like Luke," and the tagline "U.S. Senate 2018".

Messer already has competition for the GOP nomination. Kokomo attorney Mark Hurt announced his candidacy in February, Purdue Polytechnic director Andrew Takami threw his hat into the ring in April and businessman Terry Henderson from Atlanta, Ind., also joined the race earlier this year. State Rep. Mike Braun of Jasper told our newsgathering partners at the Washington Times-Herald he was "kicking the tires" and expected to make a decision by Aug. 1.

Fellow congressman (and fellow Wabash College alumnus) Todd Rokita will be disappointed by the announcement. He told Howey Politics Indiana earlier this year that he hoped Messer wouldn't run for Senate, but would focus instead on rising through the ranks in the House. Rokita is likely also upset because he's been eyeing the Senate seat himself, though he hasn't formally announced yet.

Candidates aren't the only ones flooding this race. Money is also pouring in.

Donnelly campaign manager Peter Hanscom told Howey Politics Indiana that $1.5 million of outside money had already been spent against Donnelly as of mid-June by conservative groups like Judicial Crisis Network, the NRA and Susan B. Anthony Fund. Majority Forward is spending $600,000 in Indianapolis, South Bend and Fort Wayne.

“I think we’re looking at the most expensive Senate race in state history,” Hanscom said. “It’s only 2017.”