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Crouch leads the pack in first GOP straw poll for governor

The race for the Republican nomination for governor of Indiana is heating up, and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch seems to have an early edge over her rivals. Crouch won the first straw poll of the election cycle, held by the Henry County Republican Club on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024.

Crouch gets 40% of the votes from delegates

The straw poll was attended by 47 precinct committee members from all 11 counties of the Sixth Congressional District, which covers parts of central and eastern Indiana. The event was held at Knightstown Community High School, and featured five of the six gubernatorial candidates who spoke forum-style and answered questions from the audience.

Crouch received 19 votes, or 40% of the total, followed by former Attorney General Curtis Hill, who got 16 votes, or 34%. Sen. Mike Braun came in third with eight votes, or 17%, while Eric Doden, the former president of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., got three votes, or 6%. Jamie Reitenour, a mother of five running as a “non-politician”, got one vote, or 2%. Brad Chambers, another candidate, was unable to attend and was ineligible to receive votes.

Crouch’s victory in the straw poll shows her popularity and strength among the grassroots Republicans in the district, which is considered a conservative stronghold. Crouch, who has served as lieutenant governor since 2017, has touted her experience and record in state government, as well as her support for former President Donald Trump and his policies.

Crouch leads the pack in first GOP straw poll for governor

Hill challenges Crouch with conservative credentials

Hill, who came in second, is seen as Crouch’s main rival for the nomination. Hill, who served as attorney general from 2017 to 2021, has been a vocal advocate for conservative causes, such as defending the state’s abortion laws, opposing marijuana legalization, and challenging the federal government on immigration and health care issues.

Hill, however, also faced controversy and criticism during his tenure, as he was accused of groping four women at a party in 2018. He denied the allegations and refused to resign, but was suspended from practicing law for 30 days by the Indiana Supreme Court in 2020. He lost his re-election bid to Democrat Todd Rokita in 2020, but announced his run for governor in 2021.

Hill’s supporters say he is the true conservative in the race, and that he can energize the base and attract new voters. Hill has also criticized Crouch for being too close to Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has faced backlash from some Republicans for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his support for mask mandates and business restrictions.

Braun, Doden, and Reitenour lag behind in the poll

Braun, who came in third, is a wealthy businessman and former state legislator who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018, defeating incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly. Braun has been a loyal ally of Trump in the Senate, voting to acquit him in both impeachment trials and objecting to the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.

Braun, however, has also faced criticism from some Republicans for his vote to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which was opposed by Trump and most of his party. Braun has said he wants to bring his outsider perspective and business acumen to the governor’s office, and that he can appeal to both moderates and conservatives.

Doden, who came in fourth, is a former banker and entrepreneur who served as the president of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. from 2013 to 2015, under then-Gov. Mike Pence. Doden has also been involved in various civic and philanthropic initiatives, such as founding the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and the Greater Fort Wayne Inc.

Doden has said he wants to focus on economic development, education, and infrastructure as governor, and that he can bring a fresh and innovative vision to the state. Doden has also said he is not a career politician, and that he can work across party lines to get things done.

Reitenour, who came in last, is a newcomer to politics, who describes herself as a “Christian, conservative, constitutionalist, and non-politician”. Reitenour, who lives in Kokomo, is a mother of five children, and has a background in education and business. Reitenour has said she wants to restore the rights and freedoms of the people, and that she can offer a different perspective as a woman and a mother.

Trump dominates the presidential straw poll

The straw poll also included a question on the presidential preference of the delegates, as Indiana is one of the few states that will have a Republican primary for president in 2024. Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley are the only candidates who have qualified for the ballot, as they have submitted the required number of signatures from each congressional district.

Trump received 35 votes, or 74% of the total, while Haley received 12 votes, or 26%. Trump’s overwhelming lead in the straw poll reflects his continued popularity and influence among the Republican base, despite losing the 2020 election and facing impeachment and legal challenges. Trump has not officially announced his candidacy for 2024, but has hinted at running again and has endorsed several candidates who support him.

Haley, who served as governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017, and as U.N. ambassador from 2017 to 2018, is seen as a potential alternative to Trump, who can appeal to both the establishment and the grassroots of the party. Haley, however, has also faced criticism from some Trump loyalists for her occasional criticism of the former president, especially after the Jan. 6 attack.

The straw poll is not a predictor of the outcome

The straw poll, while an interesting indicator of the mood and opinion of the local Republicans, is not a reliable predictor of the outcome of the primary election, which will take place on May 7, 2024. The straw poll is not a scientific survey, and only represents a small and self-selected sample of the voters in the district.

The candidates still have more than two months to campaign and persuade the voters across the state, and the dynamics of the race could change depending on various factors, such as fundraising, endorsements, debates, advertisements, and events. The candidates will also have to compete for attention and resources with the presidential race, which could overshadow the gubernatorial race.

The primary election will be decided by a plurality of the votes, meaning that the candidate with the most votes, regardless of the percentage, will win the nomination. The winner will then face the Democratic nominee, who will be chosen by a state convention in June. The Democrats have not yet announced any candidates for governor, but are expected to do so soon.

The general election will take place on Nov. 5, 2024, and will determine who will succeed Holcomb, who is term-limited and cannot run for a third term. Holcomb, who was elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020, has not endorsed any of the candidates for governor, and has said he will remain neutral in the primary.


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