Luke Messer began his political career replacing a state representative killed by a drunk driver — but didn't tell anyone about his own multiple DUI convictions.
On Thursday, the Indianapolis Star uncovered a dark secret about Rep. Luke Messer's political beginnings.
Messer, a Trump loyalist and the GOP insider favorite for Indiana's Senate race, started his political career in 2003 by persuading local party leaders to let him run to replace state Rep. Roland Stine, a popular local schoolteacher who was tragically killed by a drunk driver. But it turns out he never disclosed to the officials who picked him that he himself had two DUI convictions in his twenties.
"Disclosing his drunken driving history likely would have disqualified Messer in the eyes of many local party stalwarts, who were still reeling from Stine's death a few weeks earlier," notes the Star. "The 62-year-old Republican was hit head-on by an intoxicated driver during his commute from the Indiana Statehouse, on the same day he voted for legislation to strengthen penalties against drunken drivers."
Some of the officials the Star contacted made it clear they would have rejected Messer had they known — casting the legitimacy of his entire political career into doubt.
But Messer is not the only candidate in the primary plagued by scandal. Fellow Rep. Todd Rokita, who is also running for the nomination, faces multiple accusations of campaign ethics violations, including a 2009 incident as Indiana Secretary of State that resulted in his own party banning him from accessing their donor database.
This week, Rokita was also humiliated after Trump's campaign demanded he take "Endorsed by Trump/Pence" off his yard signs.
The only other significant candidate in the GOP primary is Mike Braun, a businessman and former state legislator whose most notable campaign move is accidentally hiring the former leader of a white supremacist children's organization.
Next to those choices, Republican leaders may have thought Messer was their safe option. But increasingly, the Republican Party is so extreme and untethered from morals that "safe options" are no longer a thing.