INDIANAPOLIS – In case you hadnt noticed, theres a race for governor this year.
Its easy to see why some Hoosiers might have missed it. There have been no television ads, a dearth of proposals and ideas, not even a major gaffe.
There are just three unopposed candidates – Republican, Democrat and Libertarian – crisscrossing the state, fundraising and quietly meeting voters.
By comparison, in 2004, soon-to-be Gov. Mitch Daniels hit the television airwaves in January; then-Gov. Joe Kernan followed in March. In 2008, candidates were on the air before the primary.
I do think there has been less attention paid than in years past, said U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, the Republican candidate. But when I visit, people are intensely interested in the leadership of the state of Indiana.
Democrat John Gregg said the race has been under the radar but is picking up steam and is ready to take center stage.
He did his part last week by unveiling the first coordinated public policy proposal of the race – to eliminate the state sales tax on gasoline. And he is expected to have another campaign proposal this week.
Pence, on the other hand, is keeping specific ideas close to the vest.
I think the state Republican convention is a very important moment. I think that the candidates speech is a very important moment, he said. Ive always envisioned over the course of the summer finding the right venues to really give substantive policy speeches so that we really lay out an agenda for a state that works.
The convention, in which Pences running mate will also be officially nominated, is scheduled for mid-June.
Until then, Pence said he is finishing his tour of all 92 counties. He will clear the 85th county this weekend and will have visited all of them by the May 8 primary day.
Libertarian Rupert Boneham, better known for his stint on the reality show Survivor, has a few general ideas online at his website, www.rupertforgovernor.com.
For instance, he wants to launch an empowering welfare-to-work program; reduce spending on educational administration; and favor small businesses with incentives.
Boneham has also already tapped his running mate in Brad Klopfenstein, a former Libertarian Party executive and lobbyist.
Every day more and more people are coming up to me saying I have never voted in my life and Im voting for you. I am hearing and feeling every day stronger about our ability to win, he said. I am not just the reality TV star that has been helping our community. I hold and live to these philosophies and give back to community. And Brad has the political background without being a career politician.
Just because none of these men has an opponent on the primary ballot doesnt mean they arent working hard.
Pence, who is serving his sixth term in Congress, wont be specific about how much time he is spending on his duties in Washington, D.C., where his wife and children reside, as opposed to campaigning in Indiana. Pence and his wife also still have a home in Columbus.
Were doing our job in Washington, he said. What time remains belongs to my family and campaign.
He will be in Indiana on primary day, continuing a longtime tradition of having a 5:30 a.m. meal with 100 young campaign volunteers in Columbus. Then he goes to the Clifford Fire Station, just down the road from his house, to vote and see neighbors and friends. He also always visits his old elementary school.
Gregg, a lawyer and former Indiana House speaker, will vote in Sandborn with his youngest son, a senior in high school who is voting for the first time.
The gubernatorial hopeful is spending most of his days on the campaign trail lately, sometimes meeting his office assistant along the road to exchange paperwork.
But Gregg made time this weekend to make dinner for 28 seniors going to the North Knox High School prom, a tradition he has followed the last six years with his two sons. The menu is grilled chicken, fettuccine with homemade Alfredo sauce and corn casserole. There used to be salad but no one ever ate it.
It is the last year for the custom and the melancholy is already starting to hit me, he said.
This type of story is exactly what Gregg is running on, saying the race will partly be about who is the real Hoosier.
He refers repeatedly to Pence as a career politician who does things the Washington, D.C., way.
Greggs fundraising is lagging far behind Pences – about 3-to-1 in the first quarter – but he is happy with the increase in his name identification.
He said Pence has a record, and hes going after it, listing the congressmans fair trade votes, conservative social agenda and his vote against the auto industry bailout.
Pence rarely speaks of Gregg, except to remember their days on the radio decades ago. Both had radio programs at one time.
Instead, he talks of capitalizing on Daniels successes, moving from reform to results.
We are building on whats been done as opposed to doing things differently, Pence said. Its a luxury.
His focus will be on jobs, schools, public safety and families.
And Pence welcomes the financial support he is getting from outside Indiana, from people he believes see Indianas positive reputation.
Theres a lot of anxiety around the country. People are scared about the future, he said, calling Indiana the lead car under yellow, ready to take the checkered flag.