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Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: Messer picks up support in city visit

U.S. Rep. Luke Messer brought his Senate campaign to Fort Wayne on Friday, picking up support from two Republican state lawmakers along the way.

Reps. Martin Carbaugh of Fort Wayne and Dave Heine of New Haven endorsed Messer, R-6th, who is among six announced candidates for the GOP nomination for the seat of Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.

Carbaugh, Heine and several other local Republicans joined Messer for breakfast at Hall’s Drive-In Restaurant.

Heine told The Journal Gazette he had asked veteran state legislators about Messer, a Greensburg resident who was a member of the Indiana House in the 2000s.

“Everybody said, ‘That guy was a leader,’” Heine said. He added: “Luke Messer, the way that he gets along with other people, Democrats included, I think that’s what’s best for the state of Indiana.”

Other announced candidates for the Republican Senate nomination in the May 8 primary election are U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita of Brownsburg, former state lawmaker Mike Braun of Jasper, Kokomo attorney Mark Hurt, New Albany college administrator Andrew Takami, and Owen County resident Andrew Horning, who frequently has run for elected office as a Libertarian.

Rokita, R-4th, is scheduled to appear this morning at Allen County Republican Party Headquarters in downtown Fort Wayne.

Munching on bacon and eggs at Hall’s, Messer fielded questions on a range of national issues, including trade agreements, immigration, welfare, health care, abortion, religious liberty and improving the nation’s infrastructure. Across the board, his answers reflected traditionally conservative Republican views.

President Donald Trump has floated a $1 trillion infrastructure proposal that would rely for funding in large part on public-private partnerships and state and local governments. The Washington Post reported in December that Trump’s plan might reward states and localities that demonstrate how they plan to raise revenue.

The Journal Gazette asked Messer whether federal officials would look favorably upon Indiana, considering the Indiana General Assembly last year approved a 20-year highway construction and maintenance plan that increased the state gasoline tax by 10 cents a gallon and imposed new fees on motor vehicles.

“Until we see the specifics of legislative language, it’s not clear,” Messer said. “I think we want to make sure Indiana is treated fairly. … I have no reason to believe there is any risk that the events of the last year would not count” in Indiana’s favor.

“A fair way to look at it would be to somehow look at the amount of investment per citizen of the state – not when was the last time you made a decision that increased your infrastructure funding, but what is your total investment in infrastructure and how does that compare to other states,” he said.

But he noted such a formula could hurt sparsely populated states “with really large infrastructure demands.” Indeed, federal data have shown that in recent years, the states with the highest per-capita highway spending tended to be largely rural, including the Dakotas, Alaska and Wyoming.

The Indiana Republican Party will have a Congress of Counties conference in Indianapolis next weekend during which attendees can vote in a straw poll for Republican Senate candidates. The Journal Gazette asked Messer how much stock he puts into the poll.

“I think it is an important next step in the race. I’m an old middle linebacker, and I believe anything worth doing is worth trying to win,” he said.

“We’ll be there giving our speeches. It will be the next opportunity for conservatives to look at all the candidates and voice their opinion.”

Messer, Rokita and Braun have aligned themselves with Trump. Might the scathing portrayal of the president in excerpts from journalist Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” hurt the Senate candidates?

The book “seems to be making a lot more noise in Washington than it is in Indiana. I don’t talk to very many people in Indiana that are very interested in all that,” Messer said.

“A vast majority of Hoosiers support President Trump’s agenda,” he said.

Results of an October poll conducted by Ball State University and Old National Bank showed Trump had only a 41 percent approval rating among 600 Hoosiers surveyed – but a 77 percent approval rating among Republicans.