Indiana Republicans upset Mike Braun's choice for lieutenant governor, backing far-right pick

FILE - State Rep. Julie McGuire partakes in the first legislative session of the year Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. Indiana Republican delegates will gather Saturday, June 15, 2024, to elect a nominee for lieutenant governor where Micah Beckwith is challenging Sen. Mike Braun's choice of McGuire. (Jenna Watson/The Indianapolis Star via AP, File)

By ISABELLA VOLMERT Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Republicans rejected Sen. Mike Braun’s choice for lieutenant governor on Saturday, instead nominating a podcasting pastor with far-right views to be his running mate.

Braun, who is leaving the Senate, endorsed state Rep. Julie McGuire for his running mate when he became the GOP nominee for governor. Indiana delegates usually back the nominee’s chosen running mate without a challenge.

But during Saturday’s state Republican Party convention, party delegates instead chose pastor Micah Beckwith, who promotes uncompromising positions on abortion, gender and sexuality and cohosts his “Jesus, Sex and Politics” podcast. The ultra-conservative Christian pastor lobbied delegates for a year to win the nomination at the convention.

Beckwith received the votes of 891 delegates, while McGuire got 828 votes, Indiana Republican Party spokesperson Griffin Reid said.

Braun had been endorsed by former President Donald Trump and campaigned largely on national issues such as immigration. Trump made a surprise endorsement Thursday night for McGuire ahead of the convention, indicating Beckwith’s campaign had some teeth.

“There’s no doubt about this, I’m in charge, and Micah is going to be someone that works with me. If he doesn’t, I think that means it will probably not be as fruitful,” Braun said after Beckwith’s victory.

Braun, who is leaving the U.S. Senate, had announced McGuire as his choice in May, a day after winning the primary election with about 40% of the votes. Trump won Indiana in the 2020 election by 16 points.

Braun will now run with Beckwith against Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jennifer McCormick, a former state education chief, and Libertarian nominee Donald Rainwater. Democrats haven’t won a statewide office in Indiana since 2012.

The Indiana Republican Party said in a statement that with Beckwith’s nomination as Braun’s running mate and state Attorney General Todd Rokita’s nomination Saturday for a second term in that post, “the statewide Republican ticket is set and ready to win in November!”

Beckwith, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress from central Indiana in 2020, actively campaigned for lieutenant governor for a year, courting delegates months ahead of the convention. He is known for his far-right stances on gender, sexuality and abortion. He cast himself as a political outsider who would keep the governor’s office in check, limit property taxes and oppose school efforts to support the LGBTQ+ community.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Mike Schmuhl said in a statement that Beckwith’s nomination “shows how out-of-the-mainstream extremism has hijacked the current Indiana GOP.”

“Beckwith will bring the worst of the culture wars to the lieutenant governor’s office, which is usually tasked with increasing tourism and supporting agriculture. He is dangerous for business, dangerous for women, dangerous for families, and dangerous for Indiana’s future,” Schmuhl added.

McGuire, from Indianapolis, was a policy analyst for Senate Republicans until 2022, when she unseated a representative who had angered other Republicans in part by repeatedly pushing a complete ban on abortion. Indiana’s current law allows exceptions in rare and limited circumstances.

Braun said he selected McGuire for her strongly conservative legislative and policy record despite her short time in office. If ultimately elected by voters in November, she would be the latest in a series of women to reach the second-highest office in a state that has never seen a female governor.

Indiana’s lieutenant governor runs four state agencies, ceremoniously presides over the Senate and would break tie votes there, if that would ever happen in a chamber where the GOP enjoys a supermajority.

Delegates sometimes buck their leaders’ choices. In 2022, they defied Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s backing of the incumbent secretary of state for a second term and instead elected Diego Morales, who went on to win the general election.