Indiana’s Donnelly, a top GOP target, starts re-election bid

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly is positioning himself as a moderate who will fight for “common sense and compromise” as he launches a re-election bid in a state that President Donald Trump easily won last year.

Donnelly, who has a kickoff event set for Monday, is considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators on 2018 ballots and that’s drawn U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita into a nasty feud for the Republican nomination to challenge Donnelly. Both Republicans are labeling Donnelly a “Washington liberal,” citing issues such as his votes supporting President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul.

Donnelly, who won his first Senate term in 2012, has tried to cultivate a moderate and independent image, highlighting his work on veterans issues and against outsourcing jobs to foreign countries. He drew the ire of liberals this year by joining only two other Senate Democrats to support Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. He voted against Republican health care proposals that failed in the Senate this summer, saying they threatened health coverage for 400,000 people under the Healthy Indiana Plan backed by then-Gov. Mike Pence and funded by the Medicaid expansion included in Obama’s health care plan.

“There are plenty of champions for the far right and the far left, but not enough for people who just want results,” Donnelly said in remarks prepared for his Monday kickoff event, excerpts of which his campaign provided in advance to The Associated Press. The prepared remarks go on to say, “But that doesn’t mean, as some say, that we have to fight with even more unhinged extremism and pointed fingers. We have to fight for common sense and compromise.”

Donnelly’s comments come as Messer and Rokita for weeks have traded insults and accusations, with both suggesting that the other is “unhinged.” Mike Braun, a wealthy Republican state representative from Jasper, is also running, saying the hostility between Messer and Rokita is turning off voters and will only help Donnelly’s re-election bid.

Donnelly has long blasted free-trade policies for killing American jobs and accused furnace and air conditioning giant Carrier Corp. of exploiting $3-an-hour workers when it announced plans last year to move manufacturing jobs from Indiana to Mexico.

Donnelly said last month that he was selling his stock in his family’s arts and crafts company after the AP reported it manufactures dye for ink pads in Mexico. In a…

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