CROWN POINT, Ind. (WLS) -- A wealthy former state lawmaker defeated two congressmen Tuesday in Indiana's Republican Senate primary, ending a bitter campaign dominated by personal attacks that drew national attention for its nasty tone.
Republican Mike Braun advances to a November matchup with Democrat Joe Donnelly, who is considered one of the Senate's most vulnerable incumbents.
It was an outcome few expected when Braun launched his campaign in August against the two well established political brands, who have collectively served about 25 years in elected office.
Braun credited his victory to voter disenchantment with "business as usual" and said he hoped to join other Republican senators who came from outside politics.
"If we get enough of us there, I think we'll actually start to solve some of these issues that have been vexing politicians," Braun told cheering supporters.
The owner of a national auto parts distribution company, Braun used his own wealth to lend his campaign more than $5 million. He proceeded to carpet bomb television with ads characterizing himself as an "outsider" while portraying Messer and Rokita as two "swamp brothers" cut from the same cloth.
In one particularly effective ad, Braun walked around his hometown of Jasper carrying cardboard cutouts of Rokita and Messer in identical suits while asking bystanders if they could tell the two apart.
Tom Mote, 66, of Indianapolis voted for Braun because he campaigned as an "outsider" and was turned off by fighting between Messer and Rokita.
But he was less optimistic about his party's chances of beating Donnelly.
"Donnelly's been very low-key and not very controversial," said Mote. "It's a Republican state, but it's hard to beat an incumbent."
Now Messer, a darling of Indiana's GOP establishment, and Rokita, who has been in elected office since 2003, will both be out of jobs come next year, after giving up their safe Republican seats to run for Senate.
In the finals hours of what has been called one of the nastiest Senate races in the country, the Republican candidates laid off on the attacks on one another.
Rokita, who is from Munster in Lake County, expressed what is the Republican Party's overriding concern regardless of who wins the primary: beating incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly.
"We need someone that's tough enough to beat Joe Donnelly because he votes with Bernie Sanders, the avowed socialist, 85 percent of the time and I can't find a Hoosier who thinks Bernie Sanders is right one percent of the time," said Todd Rokita, (R) Candidate for Senate.
Businessman and former state representative Mike Braun expressed a similar concern.
"If you're still interested in trying to get some things done in Washington, you know where it's been such a disappointment over the last few years, make sure you get out because in the case of Indiana you've got somebody who's going to bring a new dynamic there," Braun said.
And Messer was touting his Indiana Red Republican credentials.
"Everywhere we go my message is the same, I am who I say I am, I'm a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment conservative who supports President Trump," Messer said.
The irony for voters was that all three candidates share a similar ideology.
"They're all very conservative they all have similar records on economics, taxes foreign policy, the national rifle association, pro-life and they're still attacking each other trying to distinguish themselves," said Dan Buksa, Vice Chairman of the Munster Republican Party.
The candidates resorted to mocking one another with ugly nicknames throughout the campaign, something the party hopes they can put behind them by November, but for this primary has frustrated some voters.
"Well, I guess I don't like all the name calling, back and forth and I just wish they would stick to the basic information about what they believe in," said Mary Paulette Miller.
In Lake County voter turnout is expected to be around 20 percent which is something that local election officials call disappointing, but they say is an improvement from the 12 percent turnout a few years back when there was no senate race.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Results: Mike Braun wins Indiana Republican senate primary
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