The Indiana Democratic Party has begun actively campaigning in support of Libertarian candidate for US Senate Lucy Brenton.
A mailer paid for by the Democrats surfaced on social media yesterday, urging Hoosiers to vote for Brenton over Republican Mike Braun.
“Lucy Brenton is the Anti-Tax Candidate”
Clearly identified as having been paid for by the Indiana Democratic Party, the mailer was distributed in Seymour – a community sixty miles south of Indianapolis, and possibly other locations around the state.
The mailer mentions Brenton and her Republican opponent but not Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly. Unusually for an official message from a Democratic state party, it criticizes Mike Braun for having been a registered Democrat for two decades.
News Growl contacted the Indiana Democratic Party communications director to ask for an explanation for the unexpected campaign tactic, but we received no reply.
Lucy Brenton did reply to our enquiries, however.
“I was shocked to see that the Democrats had paid for a mailer painting me in a positive light and my Republican opponent negatively,” she told us. “It seems a strange ploy, as the Republican in this race voted as a Democrat for many years.
“The mailer is truthful in that I am the ‘Anti-Tax Conservative’ in the race,” she continued. “I’m sure the Democrats were careful to mail this only to likely Republican voters so that my anti-tax and pro constitutional views are kept secret from their own constituency.
“I believe that the mailers will be effective in encouraging voters to cast their vote for me.”
UPDATE: New mailers from a Democratic PAC surfaced on Wednesday (see below) as did mailers attacking Braun more directly from a so far unknown source (see here).
Republican desperation for Brenton to drop out
The mailer reflects apparent worries among GOP rank-and-file about Brenton’s relatively strong showing in the polls.
Braun supporters have been leaving a slew of messages on the Libertarian Party of Indiana answering machine asking Lucy Brenton to withdraw from the race.
Copies of three example voicemails have been provided to News Growl by an anonymous source.
The calls reflect the largely discredited view that Libertarian voters would automatically vote Republican if no Libertarian was in the race.
The validity of this assumption was undermined for this race in particular by a Marist Poll in September. When Marist included Brenton in their options she received 8% compared to Joe Donnelly’s 44% and Republican Mike Braun’s 41%.
When Marist asked the question with just Donnelly and Braun as options, the Democrat’s support went up 4% but the Republican’s by only 1% (the rest of Brenton’s support appears to have become “undecided”).
Brenton says her support is really made up of voters who would otherwise have no political home, not erstwhile Republicans.
“Many voters, myself included, would not bother to vote at all if there weren’t someone in the race, like a Libertarian, that shared their values,” she said. “Libertarians build vote totals by giving freedom and liberty loving Americans the chance to cast their vote for a Candidate that will support the Constitution and limit the size of government.”
And despite the Democratic mailer lumping Brenton and Braun together, Brenton makes it clear that as a Libertarian she has an agenda that is an alternative to either major party.
“I have no desire to help the GOP control the Senate,” she said. “The GOP has controlled Congress in the past, yet the federal government increased in size and taxes climbed under their watch. They had their chance and repeatedly proved they can’t be trusted.
“The only agenda I want to support is the one that repeals unconstitutional laws, limits the size of government and lowers the tax burden on Americans.”
Did Democrats not get the memo?
If the Marist poll is correct and Lucy Brenton draws more votes from Joe Donnelly than Mike Braun, the decision by the Indiana Democratic Party to start backing the Libertarian candidate may be a risky one.
As the Indiana Democratic Party is not answering questions about their mailers, it is impossible to know exactly what they are up to. The most likely explanation appears to be the most cynical one, however:
- The Indiana Democratic Party hopes to split Braun’s support by highlighting Brenton’s much stronger tax-cutting credentials.
- The Indiana Democratic Party thinks Hoosiers are too jaded or inattentive to notice that the flyer says “paid for by the Indiana Democratic Party” and put two and two together.
Meanwhile, Libertarian Party of Indiana officials are delighted.
“Thank you Indiana Democratic Party for the free mailers on our tax stance,” said LPIN Political Director Jared Hall on Facebook.
Referencing the Libertarian stance on personal freedoms and civil liberties, Hall continued, “Maybe the Indiana Republican Party will send out mailers on our social stances?”
News Growl asked the Indiana Republican Party if they had any plans to do this, but we received no reply.
UPDATE: more mailers, more sources
On Wednesday October 30th two new sets of anti-Braun, pro-Brenton mailers began appearing in central Indiana. One, similar in tone and content to the first, was from a clearly identified soucrce (the Indiana Democratic Congressional Victory Committee) and used the Indiana Democratic Party office as its return address.
Another set of mailers, which were much more of a direct attack on Braun, came from an unknown source (possibly in violation of FEC regulations that require disclaimers on all campaign literature).
The second set up Democratic Mailers are below. See October 30th coverage for the story of the mysterious mailers here.
Both Mike Braun and Joe Donnelly were invited to contribute to this story but neither replied to our emails.