KOKOMO  – I don’t know about you but I’m good and ready for this Republican primary season to be over. Most voters are now exhausted from the juvenile tactics and back-and-forth playground name-calling of some of our illustrious federal candidates. 
I suppose we should have expected it after candidate Donald Trump decimated a 17-candidate Republican primary field to take the GOP nomination for president back in 2016. Like chimps in a zoo playing monkey see, monkey do, the Indiana U.S. Senate race has devolved into a mess of ugly shenanigans and uglier rhetoric with the monkeys throwing poo at anyone who cares to watch.
Don’t get me wrong. It is perfectly reasonable and helpful to the political process for Republican candidates to point out the philosophical policy differences and, in some cases, the personal flaws of their opponents. However, the temperature of the U.S. Senate race has risen to unreasonable levels in the waning days of the season.
This race was bound to get nasty from the start. Two congressmen, Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, were willing to cast their fortunes to the wind and gamble their political careers on a high stakes roll of the dice. They were joined by a legislative neophyte with a big ego and an even bigger net worth. For those of you who long for the days of gladiator battles in the Coliseum, well you could grab your popcorn and wait for the blood to freely flow. Joe Donnelly and the Indiana Democrats grabbed all of the good front row seats to see who might eventually emerge from battle and limp into the general election contest.
To say the Senate primary has been ugly would be an understatement. First, operatives of Todd Rokita floated stories through the AP that, horror of horrors, Luke Messer’s wife, Jennifer, did highly compensated legal work for the City of Fishers. No big deal here. Hourly pay in line with the industry standards, successfully completed. That being said, by the time the AP breathlessly reported the story, it looked to Joe Sixpack like there was some nefarious milking of the Fishers’ taxpayers. 
Then followed the inevitable Rokita-planted story that Luke Messer didn’t even live in Indiana. Tar him with the Dick Lugar brush! Never mind that Messer bought a home and titled it in his and his mother’s name right here in the Hoosier State and that Luke’s favorite pair of PJs are sitting on the nightstand for when he makes his frequent trips back home.
Shortly after this barrage of mud was launched, the attack on Mike Braun began. This attack was not without some merit, but not for the reasons that it was aimed at Braun. Braun was painted as someone who had voted for either Hillary Clinton or Barrack Obama in 2008. How do we know this? Primary voting records show that Braun pulled a Democrat ballot in 2008 and the assumption is that he did it to either vote for Clinton or Obama. What we really know for sure is that he pulled a Democrat ballot. That’s it. My best guess is that Mr. Braun fell victim to the siren song of Rush Limbaugh and voted in the Democrat primary in order to vote for Barrack Obama and upend Clinton’s inevitable march to the White House. How’d that work out for you, Mike?
I’m not particularly troubled by Braun pulling a Democrat ballot. I know from personal experience that hundreds of loyal Republicans pulled a Democrat ballot in the 2008 primary at the urging of Limbaugh. The GOP from the county organizations to the state party still wrestle with the aftereffects of that naughty crossover vote. No, I’m not concerned about pulling the Democrat ballot. I’m concerned about the report that Braun failed to vote from 2002 to 2008. What kind of patriotic American, in a time that saw our soldiers fighting around the world, would fail to exercise their patriotic duty? I do have a problem with that.
Braun didn’t choose to use his surplus millions on explaining why he didn’t vote from 2002 to 2008 or why he pulled the Democrat ballot. He spent his considerable personal bankroll on the beginning of a juvenile ad campaign that persists to this very day. I admit that I like a witty political ad as much as the next guy, but Braun attacking two public servants as being impure while pouring millions into an ad campaign that glosses over the fact that his political dreams married-up a single term in the Indiana legislature and a personal fortune is just a little hard to swallow.  Come on now, give me five million dollars and I’ll convince you that I’m skinny and have a full head of hair!
Luke Messer has chosen to run as the nice guy in this campaign. Perhaps it is because he is in the leadership of the House of Representatives and knows that there are no simple fixes to our nation’s problems. I’m sure he’d like to grab some easy votes by pandering to the voters’ base instincts, but I believe that Messer knows that governing is a lot tougher than spewing absurd political messages and that governing is made infinitely more difficult by a chamber filled with those elected via simplistic thirty-second sound-bites.  Despite undisputable conservative credentials, Messer has oddly found himself declared a RINO by the Name-Caller-In-Chief Todd Rokita. Time will tell whether Messer’s strategy of staying out of the mud will prove successful or not.
The bad boy of this political cycle has certainly been Todd Rokita. Like an underweight, short-armed boxer, Rokita has come out swinging at anything and anyone from the first bell. One can almost smell an odor of desperation coming from the Rokita camp. 
While I’ve personally been disgusted with the personal attacks on Messer and Braun launched by Rokita, it is the overall theme of the Rokita campaign that troubles me the most. I’ve always been inspired by those people in government who appeal to our better angels. Inspired people accomplish much in life and in government while those who aim their messages at the demons amongst us tend to fail. History has brought us one despot after another who appealed to our inner fears and prejudices in an effort to achieve their political goals. 
It may score you a significant number of primary votes to put on the “Make America Great Again” hat, tote your assault rifle, pledge your undying allegiance to Donald Trump and promise to build the highest wall ever built after you’ve thrown all of the undocumented immigrants out of our country, but there is something unseemly and nasty about that message. Where are the thousand points of light and the shining city on a hill?
This Republican Senate primary will be over soon. We’ll know the answer to several questions at the conclusion of the first Tuesday in May. Can a mega-rich neophyte essentially buy a nomination? Will the darker vision and politics of personal destruction as practiced by Todd Rokita prevail? Can a capable, nice-guy conservative like Luke Messer succeed in the Trump era? Can Braun, Rokita or Messer survive in the November general election after swimming in the toxic pool that characterized this primary?
Here’s one Republican who can’t wait for the fratricidal bloodletting to end.  Gosh, I sure miss Ronald Reagan! 
Dunn is the former Howard County and 4th CD Republican chairman.