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Alum, former classmates face off in heated US Senate race

Crawfordsville, Ind. — Republican Candidates in Indiana’s heated U.S. Senate primary are looking to set themselves apart from each other despite sharing an unlikely bond.

Wabash College, a small, all-male liberal arts private school boasts three notable alumni who also happen to be running against each other in this primary.

And these former students are pulling no punches in this heated race even though brotherhood is one of the values this institution is known for.

The three former locals are bringing national buzz to the town of Crawfordsville just shy of 16,000 residents.

“It’s definitely interesting somewhat gratifying when we have alumni in public office,” said Shamira Gelbman, the chair of Wabash College’s Political Science Department.

Although they are looking to distinguish themselves now, all three men once walked a similar path at Wabash.

Mike Braun finished his studies in 1976.

While Luke Messer and Todd Rokita were classmates and graduated in 1991 and 1992 respectively.

 “To have one of the most contested senate races, playing out in the context of that, it feels really momentous,” said Gelbman.

Each alumnus is looking to gain momentum for what’s set to be a heated midterm showdown.

And they’re doing so by battle-testing each other in the primary.

“I think it’s part of the primary system,” said Gelbman. “With polarization in recent years I think it’s probably gotten worse. The whole tone of politics has changed and it’s become much nastier, much more negative and much less productive, perhaps.”

But a culture of competition without malice is one of the core values nearly 900 men on this campus live by every school year.

“This is a school that has a lot of school spirit, that prides itself on a strong brotherhood among its students and alumni,” said Gelbman.

That brotherhood taught on campus has seemingly been lost on those alumni turned candidates.

But no matter how divisive their political ads have been, Gelbman believes folks at the college are still inspired to do more come May and November.

“I think there is a heightened sense of urgency around politics generally right now,” she said. “An overwhelming number of students said they plan to vote in 2018. Many of them citing a sense of ‘this is going to be an important midterm election.’”

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