INDIANAPOLIS – He doesn’t dress the part.
And he doesn’t even talk the part.
But 30-year-old Nathan Altman is diving head-first into politics as an independent.
The Carmel native and Purdue University graduate launched his bid for U.S. Senate Wednesday evening at The Speak Easy in Indianapolis, a tech hub he helped launch along with its neighbor DeveloperTown.
To even have his name appear on the November ballot, Altman will first have to gather 26,699 signatures, a requirement of state law.
If successful, he’ll enter a contentious and somewhat crowded field. Three Republicans – Congressman Luke Messer, Todd Rokita and former state lawmaker Mike Braun – are all running in the May primary looking to unseat Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly in November.
“I’m hoping I resonate with a lot of folks that feel either in the middle or feel they aren’t represented,” Altman said in an interview Wednesday.
Altman acknowledges and embraces an unconventional approach. His campaign website lists no policy positions on key issues. He said in our interview that is on purpose.
“It’s important to build that system first,” he said. “And then we break apart the issue and we go deep into it and understand what constraints are there. These are really, really challenging issues.”
Beyond signatures, Altman will also face immense fundraising pressure and the challenge of simple name recognition across the state. His campaign is receiving help from Unite America, an organization committed to independent candidates nationwide.
“There’s always room for an independent,” Mike Murphy said, a former Republican state lawmaker and panelist on IN Focus. “There’s not room for a winning independent.”
Murphy said independent candidates conventionally take votes from Republicans but it’s unclear what impact Altman may have.
“I think it would take a tremendous scandal of momentous personal scale against the Republican or Democratic nominee for an independent to have a shot at all,” Murphy said.
A winner-take-all mentality, Altman said, won’t be his approach. He said winning will come if his overall mission is embraced first.
“I think the structural design of how we govern is most important,” he said. “Because I’m smart enough to know I don’t know everything.”