NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Do homework before voting in primary

It’s time for Indiana citizens to get serious about the primary election only three weeks from today on May 8. And the most consequential Indiana race may be for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Joe Donnelly.

Indiana Republicans must elect a candidate to unseat the New York native who lives in South Bend and has been in office since 2013. The outcome could help determine which party controls the Senate.

The three Republicans running for Senate (Todd Rokita, Luke Messer and Mike Braun) participated in their second debate of the GOP primary race Sunday evening in Indianapolis at WISH-TV’s studios. It was broadcast locally on WANE-TV.

The hour-long debate was an effort by each candidate to set themselves apart from the others, even though they all are generally touting the same philosophies, loyalty to President Trump and conservative values.

For the average voter at this point, it’s not an easy task to determine which candidate would best serve their interests. Nor is it clear which of the three would have the best shot at beating Donnelly.

Braun, a former state representative, is running — as Trump did in 2016 — as a Washington outsider and not an establishment politician as he insists both Rokita and Messer surely are. A businessman from Jasper and the only candidate not wearing a suit and tie at Sunday’s debate, Braun said Messer and Rokita are both lawyers who never really practiced and are career politicians. Rokita has represented Indiana’s 4th District in Congress since 2011; Messer has represented the 6th District since 2013.

Rokita and Messer, while sparring about their own differences (Messer voted for the omnibus spending bill, while Rokita voted against it), often agreed with each other on several issues in the debate. And they both teamed up in attacking Braun. Two more debates are coming up. The next is Monday in Fort Wayne, sponsored by the Allen County Republican Party, at the Ramada Hotel Plaza and Conference Center at Coldwater and Washington Center roads. All 500 seats have been sold out.

The debate will be televised live beginning at 7 p.m. by WPTA, Channel 21, and its feed will be carried by five other stations, including local PBS station, WFWA, Channel 39. The stations will carry the first hour of the 90-minute debate, then switch to network programming at 8 p.m. WOWO radio will carry the complete debate live.

Rokita has previously stated he will not participate in the last debate on April 30 at Indianapolis public television station WFYI, sponsored by the non-partisan Indiana Debate Commission. He says primary debates should be “organized and moderated by conservative Republicans.” The commission says it would be the first time in its 10-year history a candidate has declined to participate in one of its debates.

We believe Rokita should reconsider. We also believe Indiana voters should follow the debates and do their best to decide who is the best candidate — then vote on May 8.