FORT WAYNE – This week we received an over-sized card from Mike Braun featuring this quote in bold letters: “I’ve Always Been A Lifelong Republican.” His ubiquitous television ads make the same proud – but false – claim. If the TV show were still around, he’d be featured on this week’s episode of “I’ve Got a Secret.”
The Indianapolis Star reported back in December that Dubois County records show that at least since 1996 (their records only go back 25 years) and until 2012, Braun voted in Democrat primaries. There is a myth that Indiana has some variation of California’s open primary system, where voters can just vote in any primary they wish. In fact, while we don’t register by political party, there are rules. Here is a clear summary of Indiana law from the website of “Open Primaries”:
1. “Affiliation with a party is not required to vote in primaries. However, voters can only choose the primary ballot of the party who received a majority of their votes in the previous general election and voter records are kept as public information.
2. If a voter did not vote in the last general election, they must “intend to vote for the majority of the nominees on their desired party’s ballot.”
3. Voters can be challenged by another eligible voter on suspicion of perjury.
4. This system is an attempt to get voters to vote along party lines but is not easily enforceable.”
In other words, if Mike Braun did not vote for a majority of Democrats in the fall elections from 1996 to 2012 – as he publicly claims – he could be sued for perjury. While that would be unwise, and because the difficulty of enforcement has resulted in it increasingly being ignored, it is odd to see a former state legislator touting perjurious behavior. Braun can holler all he wants about me or others being career politicians, but he is the politician boldly proclaiming that he broke the law.
Furthermore, there appears to be no record of Braun ever supporting Republicans. He has spent $5 million or more on his own U.S. Senate campaign, but it has thus far proved elusive to find any donation to another Republican candidate by this self-proclaimed “lifelong Republican.” 
Braun seems to be claiming to have been a stealth lifelong Republican. There is no evidence of Republican yard signs, working for a Republican candidate or appearances at Lincoln Day dinners. I understand that Democrats who become Republicans aren’t necessarily expected to do any of these things, but he’s touting that he was a “lifelong” Republican not a Democrat. He’s not claiming to have switched parties. He’s claiming to have been a closet Republican.
The reason, Braun repeatedly asserts, is that in order to have political impact in Dubois County, you needed to vote in Democrat primaries. This surprised me. When I came into politics as a kid, the legendary Allen County Republican Party boss Orvas Beers was furious with me. He was a family friend, and I had headed Youth for Adair for Congress in 1968. Then I committed his version of the unpardonable sin by siding with those Republicans south of U.S. 40. 
You see, the funny thing is, Braun has it backwards. Less populous southern Indiana was long over-represented in the Republican Party. The more conservative faction had historically been anchored around U.S. Sen. Bill Jenner of Marengo, about 30 miles from Mike Braun’s hometown of Jasper. Marengo was also the home of Seth Denbo, the legendary southern Indiana political boss. The conservative faction that Orvas was so furious that I had aligned with was led by Denbo and John K. Snyder of Washington, Ind., in Daviess County (which abuts Dubois). Beers had me removed as head of Youth for Adair and as the nearly unanimously elected Indiana College Republican chairman (my opponent voted for himself) because of my heresy of siding with southern (read: conservative) Indiana Republicans.
Later as an adult, I became a good friend of Connie Nass when she was the Republican mayor of Huntingburg. I supported her successful campaign to become state auditor. Huntingburg is famous for its historic ballpark, used in the movie, “A League of Their Own.” Huntingburg, in case you aren’t aware, is part of the Jasper metropolitan area in Dubois County. Somebody apparently forgot to give Connie the memo that there weren’t any local Republicans worth voting for in Dubois County.
Furthermore, two of the current three Dubois County commissioners are Republican. So are five of the seven county councilmen. So are the county treasurer, surveyor, clerk and judge of the circuit court. No local Republicans to vote for? Nonsense. Not only are there Republicans in Dubois County, but having the best GOP candidates possible is important in the county because control is hotly contested: Democrats hold 10 county offices while Republicans hold 11. Dubois County is certainly no place to be a secret “lifelong” Republican; they needed overt, active ones.
Let me make this clear: I welcome Democrats who want to become Republicans or vote Republican. In my successful races, crossover Democrats repeatedly helped me survive erosion of Republicans who were angry with me for one thing or another. I’ve helped recruit multiple Democrats to the Republican Party. Two of the more unique examples were Democrat Congressman Rodney Alexander of western Louisiana and Mayor Terry MacDonald of New Haven, Ind. While we were in Libya as part of the first congressional delegation to meet with Qaddafi, Rodney confided to me that he was thinking of switching to the Republican Party. His grandfather had been an official in FDR’s administration and his family tradition was entirely within the Democrat Party. We became friends and I did what I could to assist his transition. Soon after his switch, I went to his district where we met with all the law enforcement officials in one part and then held a meth hearing in another.

One of many Democrats who became Republicans in my congressional district during my time in Congress was my good friend, Terry McDonald. He helped me organize New Haven for my 1994 campaign. He was motivated initially by the pro-life issue. After I won, I received a call from the multiple-term Republican Mayor Lynn Shaw, who was furious with me. Terry had filed as a Democrat to run against him and he blamed it on me. Terry won and kept winning (he’s still the mayor). Only he switched to the Republican Party. I am a strong advocate of expanding the party and then fighting about any differences among ourselves. 
But Congressman Alexander and my friend Nathan Deal (former congressman and now Republican governor of Georgia who became vice-chair of my subcommittee after he, too, switched parties), Mayor McDonald, Judge Michael Kramer of Noble County and the many other friends who’ve switched parties did not have the unmitigated gall to claim they had been “lifelong Republicans.”
Mike Braun’s earlier campaign ads were brilliant. Frankly, he is an impressive guy. As recently as two weeks ago, Diane and I were both leaning his direction. Then he began touting this blatant, easily verifiable lie about being a “lifelong Republican.” I naively thought he had switched parties for reasons beyond political ambition. And then in defense of his being a lifelong Democrat, he trashed the very Republicans who have worked so hard in Dubois County and southern Indiana.
His $5 million may get him the GOP nomination, but he sure won’t get our votes. 

Souder is a former Republican congressman from Indiana.