INDIANAPOLIS -- The GOP race for Indiana's 6th Congressional District has drawn national attention and money, largely because of one candidate's family connection: Greg Pence is seeking the seat once held by his younger brother, Vice President Mike Pence, and he's already raised nearly $1 million to get it.
The seat -- which the vice president held for a dozen years before becoming Indiana governor and includes a portion of the Tri-State -- is one of two GOP-dominated districts in the state that are open this year. Incumbent U.S. Reps. Luke Messer in the 6th District and Todd Rokita in the 4th are running for the U.S. Senate. Whoever wins the May 8 primary in those districts will be the favorite to win in the November general election.
The GOP candidates in those districts have touted their conservative credentials, while trying to separate themselves from the others by emphasizing differences in their background. It's no surprise that the vice president's name is often invoked on the campaign trail.
In the 4th District, two members of Mike Pence's gubernatorial administration are running.
In the 6th District, Jonathan Lamb is running against Greg Pence in the GOP primary and criticizing his opponent for relying on the Pence name.
"Mike has done Hoosiers a lot of good throughout the years, but that doesn't mean his brother's qualified," said Lamb, a 36-year-old Muncie businessman.
The Federal Election Commission's latest filing showed Greg Pence, a Marine veteran and owner of two antique malls who once ran the now-bankrupt chain of Tobacco Road convenience stores, has raised about $989,000 with no self-loaned money since starting his campaign in October. Lamb has raised about $842,000, with much of it his own money, as of March 31.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Pence defended his family name and his qualifications to serve for the 6th District, where he said he has lived for nearly six decades.
"The Pence name is a good name," he said after listing the accomplishments of his family members, including his parents, daughter and his other brother. He is the oldest of the six siblings. "There's nothing wrong with that besides the fact that yes, I'm very, very, very proud of my brother Michael."
The family connection has provided Pence some high-powered help.
The vice president headlined a fundraiser last month for his brother at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. It was reported to raise about $300,000. Pence's campaign also benefited from money by groups allied with President Donald Trump's administration, such as Great America PAC.
All of that has given Pence what is considered to be a substantial edge over Lamb, who said he would be a better choice.
"My big message to the voters is that we have to decide who's ultimately going to fight for our state and our district in Washington," Lamb said.
Also running in the GOP primary are Stephen MacKenzie, Mike Campbell and Jeff Smith.
Two of the three main GOP candidates in the 4th District are linked to the vice president as well.
Steve Braun, former Indiana workforce development chief under Pence and current Gov. Eric Holcomb until last August, calls himself a "conservative business leader." He was appointed by Pence to lead the agency in 2014 because of his business experience, notably a data solution company that he founded.
Braun said he wants to bring his practical approach on issues to Washington and support Trump.
Also citing support for Trump is Diego Morales, a one-time gubernatorial aide for Mike Pence. He is an immigrant from Guatemala and a U.S. Army veteran.
Morales claimed he is the front-runner because he is "outworking everyone in the field" and "raising the cash."
His campaign has raised about $554,000 while enjoying support from a number of GOP powerbrokers and Pence allies, including former Pence gubernatorial chief of staff Jim Atterholt. Braun's campaign has raised nearly $620,000, with $250,000 self-loaned.
Another candidate in the race is Jim Baird, a state representative from Greencastle. He touted his longtime experience in the district as a county commissioner, farmer and health care business owner.
The main Republican candidates in both districts generally support the Trump administration on issues such securing borders, fixing the immigration system and trade.
Other GOP candidates in the race are James Nease, Kevin Grant, Tim Radice and Jared Thomas.