Exclusive—’Iron Sharpens Iron’: Indiana Senate Hopefuls Luke Messer, Todd Rokita Race to the Right in Heated Immigration Face Off

Luke Messer (AP) Todd Rotika

Reps. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Luke Messer (R-IN) clashed on Breitbart News Saturday this weekend over several issues – especially immigration – in back-to-back appearances on the program amid their bid to win the Indiana Senate Republican primary.

Congressmen Rokita and Messer, as well as businessman and former state Rep. Mike Braun, continue to vie for the Indiana Senate Republican nomination, hoping to challenge Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in the 2018 Indiana Senate midterm election in November. The three Republican heavy weights face the voters at the polls on May 8, just weeks away, in one of the first nominating contests in the country.

On Saturday’s Breitbart News Saturday program on SiriusXM 125 the Patriot Channel, Rokita and Messer traded barbs, at each other and at Braun, who himself has not accepted multiple invitations to come on the program–while laying out their visions for their Senate campaigns and attempting to out-flank one aother on the right on several core issues. The political arms race to the right was reminiscent of the 2016 GOP presidential primaries, where 17 candidates raced to the most conservative and hardest core positions on issues for a chance to win voters’ approval and represent the party in the general election that year.

And just like 2016, the issue of immigration was a particularly hot-button one on Saturday, with Rokita detailing how he supports English as the official language of the United States of America–and arguing that Messer is pro-amnesty. Messer fired back, arguing that he has never supported amnesty and that he has been an ally of President Donald Trump’s in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The three candidates are aiming to be the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate against vulnerable red-state Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) in a state where President Trump trounced Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016. Donnelly, one of the U.S. Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in the 2018 midterm elections, represents the state where Vice President Mike Pence–Trump’s 2016 running mate–served as governor before the president selected him to round out his ticket.

The Indiana race is a unique situation in a year in which Democrats are gaining momentum nationally. In Indiana, the heart of Trump country and the state where the president became the presumptive GOP nominee for president nearly two years ago, it’s the inverse of the national equation. With a three-way race to the right for the Republican nomination, and a red-state Democrat desperate to present himself as a moderate waiting for whomever wins in the general election in November, Indiana’s Senate race is defying the national political odds.

“There’s not going to be a blue wave in Indiana,” Messer said on the program on Saturday. “There’s a red wave coming. We’re not going to beat Joe Donnelly with another Joe Donnelly.”

“Competition is a good thing,” Rokita said in his appearance. “It’s only the establishment and the elites who wring their hands and say, ‘Oh there’s more than one guy running so we can’t coordinate everything.’ That’s absolutely ridiculous. The old biblical passage was something along the lines of ‘iron sharpens iron.’ That’s what’s happening here.”

Immigration

On the program, Rokita attacked Messer, arguing that he does not live in the state of Indiana and has served as a member of the House Gang of Eight, which supported amnesty for illegal immigrants. Rokita also hit Messer for missing his original hit time on the program, something Messer to his credit made up for by appearing later in the program after Rokita. Messer was originally scheduled to appear on the program before Rokita on Saturday, but switched to a time after Rokita’s appearance due to a scheduling mistake. Braun would not appear at all on Breitbart News Saturday this past weekend, despite numerous invitations–something Rokita hammered him on as well.

“One guy, maybe two guys, couldn’t get on the show–they’re not running organized campaigns–I know how to run an organized campaign, I’ve been Secretary of State for two terms, I’ve been on the ballot statewide, I’ve gotten more votes than Joe Donnelly, the guy we’re running against, who votes with Bernie Sanders 85 percent of the time,” Rokita said. “Mike Braun, the candidate who’s trying to buy the Senate Seat in Indiana, can’t get on your show, can’t call in. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and he’s going to buy millions of dollars worth of ads … Luke Messer does not even live in the state of Indiana, he has to get on a plane every time he wants to campaign. Perhaps that is the reason for his delay and ability to be on today. When you have a guy like Joe Donnelly, who votes with Bernie Sanders 85 percent of the time, who was part of the Gang of Eight, who wanted amnesty, and Luke Messer was on the House version of the Gang of Eight, we saw the power of one vote in a very terrible way a few months ago in the Senate with the president’s agenda. We were one vote away from getting Obamacare repealed and sent to the president’s desk, and we can blame John McCain all we want, and in fact he should be blamed, but in fact Joe Donnelly had the same vote. If you do not get these senators in their first term, then it is hard to get them. I have the record, I know the state, we are driving 400 miles before the day is out.”

Later on Breitbart News Saturday, during his rescheduled hit, Messer disputed the claim that he was a member of the House Gang of Eight, instead calling Rokita a Trump-like nickname: “Lyin’ Todd Rokita.”

“That guy in Indiana is known as ‘Lyin’ Todd Rokita,’” Messer fired back. “He was called out by PolitiFact in the last couple of days for running an ad campaign that’s mostly false. From what I understand, I wasn’t listening, but from what other people have told me, I have never been part of any Gang of Eight – that’s just simply not true. In fact, I’ve helped lead the fight with President Trump to get after illegal immigration.  The legislation I put forward is an example working with President Trump, and Breitbart took a big lead on this, we were able to make major progress in ending tax credits for illegal immigrants. It’s crazy under the law, you can get a child tax credit as an illegal immigrant. My legislation is frankly tougher than where we ended up as a tax package, and there’s more to it in ending $7 billion in tax credits for illegal immigrants. But because of this president’s leadership, my leadership, and frankly the leadership of Breitbart, I was one of the first elected leaders last year that we already had the authorization to build a border wall, and I got criticized by CNN, and now we are making steps in the right direction. Of course, we want to do a lot more. My whole career I’ve been an authentic conservative. You are right, listen all of us have learned from President Trump, and we are getting even tougher on illegal immigration. But I will always start by telling you the truth and I think that’s important in any campaign.”

“If someone will lie to you if they are running for office, then guess what? They will lie to you when you are in office. I think most Hoosiers understand that,” Messer added of Rokita.

The Messer campaign also emphasized to Breitbart News that Messer opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants and shared a rating from Numbers USA, a pro-American immigration reform group, that confirms that Messer “opposes amnesty.”

Reps. Messer and Rokita have the same Numbers USA rating on immigration–83 percent–and Messer was not a part of the Gang of Eight, per the Messer campaign. 

The Messer campaign added that it was Rokita who was one of the first congressmen to endorse Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) over Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign. Rubio was in fact one of the signature authors of the Senate Gang of Eight’s amnesty legislation. The Messer campaign highlighted for Breitbart News reports of Rokita having, during the 2016 primary, called Trump “vulgar, if not profane” and having said about Trump while campaigning for Rubio that “at some point, you have to be presidential.”

But Rokita made the point during his appearance on Breitbart News Saturday that he supports English as the official language of the United States–one of the strongest positions in favor of American sovereignty any politician can take.

“I’m the only one in this race that has the guts to come out and talk about English as the official language of this country,” Rokita said. “I’m a cosponsor of that bill. I don’t think there’s anything mean, I don’t think there’s anything wrong. I think there’s everything not politically correct [about this]. Common borders, language, culture, right? We want to build a wall not to just necessarily keep people out but so we can have a sovereign nation. There’s no nation worth living in that doesn’t have a wall or a wall system or an ability to keep people out and know who’s in–and to keep things out. Ninety percent of heroin comes in across the Southern border, and we have an opioid epidemic. Everybody wants to talk about this, that, and their hair’s on fire about the opioid epidemic. Well, let’s try keeping the stuff out of our country. And you got to, to have a sovereign nation, be able to do that. Part and parcel of that is having a common language. Part and parcel of being a unified nation is that you share the same language. That’s all that means. That doesn’t mean you can’t speak your native tongue in your own house, but in terms of the government, in terms of public speech, in terms of everything that we do as a nation, English is our language.”

Messer, meanwhile, walked through new legislation he has proposed targeting sanctuary cities using citizenship data collected during the upcoming Census.

“Sanctuary cities literally get a federal tax dollar bonus under current law–we need to stop it,” Messer said. “I was excited to hear the president’s proposal to ask the citizenship question on the Census. It’s amazing that the left has tried to make that controversial at all. What we want to do is give that information some teeth. Under current law, any total population calculation for federal funding actually includes illegal immigrants. It’s crazy. It needs to stop. As you know, one of President Trump’s most important campaign promises was to secure our borders and to defund sanctuary cities. This gives us a way to do that by basically saying if you’re going to receive federal dollars based on population, it should be the number of legal residents and citizens who are counted, not illegal immigrants.”

Syria

On Friday night, President Trump ordered precision missile strikes on Syria in reaction to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

In reaction to the news, Rokita told Breitbart News Saturday that he backs the president.

I’m supportive of the president,” Rokita said. “I was supportive last time he did it, not only because it gives some immediate help to innocent civilians, but also buttresses our friend Israel. Finally, it again it sends another message more widespread to the rest of the world that, ‘Hey this is not the last guy, this is not the last guy who led from behind, this is a new sheriff in town. I think that approach and attitude already gave us some dividends in other parts of the world.”

Rokita argued that America needs to create a new authorization of military force (AUMF) to set the parameters of future military action in Syria.

“The current authorization is way overdue. I have a lot of questions. We have to get a new one in place, or we are at least going to have to debate how we’re going forward here, if things get worse going forward,” Rokita said. “The power to wage war lies squarely under Congress in the Constitution, and that needs to be maintained.”

Rokita continued, “The point is the world knows, that America is leading again. You need to be our ally to be on the right side of history, on the right side of facts and the right side of the moral things. That is good, that produces dividends. It will make dictators in North Korea rethink things, and Russia re-think things.”

On Syria, there was not much disagreement between the two candidates, as Messer agreed with Trump’s action as well.

“I support the president,” Messer said. “America is safe when America is strong. I think it was a smart and a closely tailored strike and appropriate under the circumstances.”

THE INDIANA SENATE RACE                

Both Rokita and Messer, unsurprisingly, lit into Donnelly as a leftist who does not represent Indiana values.

But both also lit into their fellow GOP primary opponent, Braun, who has yet to agree to appear on Breitbart News radio on SiriusXM Patriot Channel 125.

“I’ve got one guy running in this race, Mike Braun, who says he’s an outsider, but if anything he’s outside the Republican Party,” Messer said of Braun. “He’s a 14-year office holder, much of that time voting in Democrat primaries–was a Democrat even until 2012 and never supported Republicans. He says he’s a Republican. He never supported Republicans. I’ve already talked to you a little about Todd Rokita. Look, it’s not enough to just put on a MAGA hat–you have to vote with the president. That’s important too.”

Of Braun, Rokita added his own jabs at the third competitor in the race accusing him of being a “millionaire” running for the Senate because “It’s on his bucket list of things to do.”

“Both Luke Messer and Mike Braun are responsible for a billion dollars of tax hikes when they were in the legislature,” Rokita said. “Mike Braun was 45-0, he was two years in the state legislature, he voted for 45 tax increases. He’s never voted no on a tax bill including the state’s largest tax increase, which was our gas tax. You mentioned infrastructure. Even at our committee at the federal level, we were able to get a billion dollars for Indiana and all other states got their cut too without raising taxes, without printing the money, and without borrowing it. And that was Washington. And so if you send Mike Braun to the Senate, it’s going to be terrible, because all he knows how to do is raise taxes–same with Messer.”

Rokita also argued that he is better prepared to take on Donnelly, in that he has run–and won–statewide campaigns in Indiana before, when he was Secretary of State.

“All I can tell you is what I’m doing on the ground in Indiana is what I’ve always done to be successful running statewide and in my congressional seat, and that is go straight to the voters,” Rokita said. “I drive 45,000 miles a year, no joke, and when I was Secretary of State, I went to every county–all 92 of them–at least once. No one else is doing that, except Donnelly. Donnelly, the incumbent Democrat–a liberal Democrat who hugs Hillary Clinton and did what President Obama told him to do, got the final vote of Nancy Pelosi’s House for Obamacare, votes with Bernie Sanders 85 percent of the time. Ok, that guy–is very retail. He is, and I give that to him. He does that the way I do it. That’s why you’re going to need a guy who’s known throughout the community and throughout the state–and the state knows him–who’s willing to work it, and who doesn’t live in McLean, Virginia.”

LISTEN TO INTERVIEWS WITH REPS. TODD ROKITA (R-IN) AND LUKE MESSER (R-IN):

 

.