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Braun’s Senate win helps Republicans expand reach in Indiana

NOBELSVILLE, IN - NOVEMBER 04: Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun speaks during a campaign stop on November 4, 2018 in Nobelsville, Indiana. Braun is locked in a tight race with incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Mike Braun’s Senate victory Tuesday helped solidify Republican control of offices across Indiana on what was shaping up as a strong night for Democrats elsewhere.

The multimillionaire auto parts magnate ousted Joe Donnelly, Indiana’s only Democratic statewide officeholder, and helped Republicans reinforce their control of the chamber. The race saw two campaign appearances for Braun by President Donald Trump and one for Donnelly by former President Barack Obama in the campaign’s waning days.

Indiana’s nine U.S. House seats were also up for grabs Tuesday, but only two GOP-controlled ones were considered in play. The Republican incumbents won both of those, in southern Indiana’s 9th District and northern Indiana’s 2nd District.

The Republican incumbents in Indiana’s three other statewide races — those for secretary of state, state auditor and treasurer — also won re-election.

Voters approved a ballot measure amending the Indiana Constitution for the second time in two years. The constitutional amendment approved Tuesday obligates the General Assembly to pass balanced budgets, although the Legislature can intervene to suspend that requirement.

Here are some of the key races:

U.S. SENATE RACE

Braun won his race against Donnelly after Hoosier voters were bombarded by weeks of advertisements touting competing claims about foreign outsourcing.

Ads targeting Braun, a multimillionaire auto-parts magnate, focused on his company importing the products he sells from China. Those aimed at Donnelly zeroed in on a factory in Mexico that’s owned by a company Donnelly’s family owns.

PENCE’S BROTHER

Greg Pence, an older brother of Vice President Mike Pence, has won the heavily Republican 6th District seat his famous sibling once held.

The 61-year-old owner of two antique malls faced Democrat Jeannine Lee Lake, who publishes a bimonthly Muncie newspaper. He had been expected to easily win the eastern Indiana seat, which was open because Republican Rep. Luke Messer ran in the GOP primary for Senate. Greg Pence is one of Mike Pence’s three brothers.

COMPETITIVE HOUSE RACES

Republican Rep. Trey Hollingsworth defeated Bloomington attorney Liz Watson to win a second term in southern Indiana’s 9th District. Political observers had said the race for the district that extends from the Ohio River to the south Indianapolis suburbs was competitive and could possibly change party hands if a Democratic “blue wave” reached Indiana.

Republican Rep. Rep. Jackie Walorski won re-election to a fourth term in northern Indiana’s 2nd District, the other U.S. House race that was deemed competitive. Walorski had faced Methodist minister-turned-health care company executive Mel Hall in the South Bend-area district.

Heading into Election Day, political observers said Republicans would likely hold onto the seven Indiana congressional seats they control and Democrats the two others.

LEGISLATURE

Half of the seats in the 50-member Indiana Senate and all 100 seats in the Indiana House are up for election this year.

Republican supermajorities in both chambers have left Democrats largely powerless over the past six years.

Several longtime legislators decided not to seek new terms this year. Democrats need to add four House seats to break the current 70-30 Republican supermajority, while the GOP’s 41-9 Senate margin means Democrats must pick up at least eight seats.

BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT

Indiana voters approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday that obligates the General Assembly to pass balanced budgets unless supermajorities of two-thirds of the members of each chamber vote to suspend that obligation.

Indiana’s electorate had last voted to amend the constitution in 2016 when it approved a provision to protect the right to hunt and fish.