FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) – Mike Braun has defeated Sen. Joe Donnelly in one of the nation’s most closely watched election day contests.
NBC News called the race about 9 p.m.
“I want to thank all Hoosiers for giving me a resounding victory… putting your faith in me,” Braun said at his victory celebration in Indianapolis. “I will not let you down. I promise.”
Braun noted that moments earlier, he had received a call from Donnelly, congratulating him on the win.
He told those assembled at the J.W. Marriott Hotel ballroom that the time for reconciliation had arrived.
The results follow a back-and-forth campaign that took off across the state following Braun’s nomination earlier this year. The Jasper businessman defeated two established GOP politicians, both Congressmen, to earn his spot on the November ballot as the Republican nominee.
Though he served in the Indiana State Legislature, he positioned himself as an outsider.
The Democratic incumbent, Donnelly, meanwhile, navigated tricky political waters — splitting his vote on two Supreme Court nominees and voting against the White House-backed tax reform measure — in a state that overwhelmingly supported Pres. Donald Trump in 2016.
Donnelly was as quick to tout his support of Trump policies as anything he did in Washington.
“If you want someone to be with a political party 100 percent of the time, I’m not that guy,” Donnelly said in his final ad of the campaign. “I’m not about party. Our politics are already too partisan and have become way too violent.”
But as the race tightened, he angered members of his party by adopting some of Trump’s rhetoric. He attacked socialists and the “radical left,” while calling for a border wall with Mexico.
“Career politicians like Joe Donnelly will say anything to keep their jobs,” Braun said.
Republicans say the first-term senator talks a good game. But they argue he has been against Trump when it counts, noting he opposed the GOP-led tax cut, legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“Joe Donnelly voted against your tax cuts and he joined the Democrat mob to vote against justice Brett Kavanaugh,” Trump said at a rally in the Indianapolis area on Friday.
In an eleventh-hour push to get Braun over the top, Trump himself headlined a Fort Wayne rally that packed an enthusiastic crowd into the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Libertarian Lucy Brenton figured to play a key role in the outcome of the race, drawing mid-to-high single digit support in most polls — enough to potentially impact the results Tuesday night.