Yet More Political Changes in Indiana

Last week Indiana was the epicenter of U.S. politics, to a degree that I have never before witnessed. As referenced in the July 13 IBA Desktop blog, early in the week there was much excitement, while Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was being considered for nomination as candidate for vice president on the Republican ticket. That position was offered to him late in the week, and Pence’s acceptance gave Hoosier significance to the Republican ticket for U.S. president and vice president.

Other news last week was that Baron Hill, Democrat nominee for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Dan Coats, had dropped out of the race. Speculation swirled that Evan Bayh, former Indiana governor and U.S. senator, would take Hill’s place; confirmation of Bayh’s intent was announced later in the day on July 13. As if that news were not enough to shine a light on Indiana, on Tuesday last week Donald Trump held a fundraiser and delivered a speech in central Indiana. His Indiana visit was unexpectedly extended, when his departure plane experienced mechanical issues. As a result of the schedule change, political dignitaries, including former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, flew in to meet Trump for VP running mate conversations, placing Indiana in the middle of every news cycle.

The events surrounding Gov. Pence’s move to the vice president candidacy set off a series of movements within Indiana politics. Pence had to drop out of the race for governor in order to enter the race for vice president this fall. Several individuals have expressed interest in replacing Gov. Pence on the Republican ballot for governor for the next four years, with three emerging as likely contenders: recently appointed Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks and U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita. Other individuals could still seek the nomination, if not already on the ballot for another office.

The winner for Republican nominee for governor will be determined by a process that must be completed within 30 days of Pence’s removal from the ticket. The 22 members from across the state who make up the Indiana Republican State Committee are scheduled to meet on July 26 to make a selection. Whomever the committee chooses as the Republican nominee will change Indiana’s gubernatorial race significantly. To date, Democrat candidate John Gregg’s campaign has focused on Pence’s record. Since none of the contenders is tied to Pence’s record, Gregg will have to pivot his campaign in a new direction.

Though I am sure your scorecard is pretty marked up by now, more action may be forthcoming, as others toss their hats into the ring for an open House seat, should Brooks or Rokita be the nominee selected by the Central Committee. Thus Indiana may remain in the political spotlight a little longer. Regardless, 2016 is proving to be an exceptionally exciting year for Indiana politics!

– S. Joe DeHaven

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