Early voting in the Nov. 6 election got off to a strong start Monday.
Bunting, balloons and a brass band greeted about 150 people at a Republican Party rally on the city's west side.
"We are going to go find the vote, we're gonna turn out the vote, we're gonna vote absentee, we're gonna vote early, and we're gonna vote a victory for Indiana," Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th, the GOP candidate for governor, told the cheering crowd at an office building at 1800 Magnavox Way.
Not to be outdone, the Indiana Democratic Party announced that former President Bill Clinton will headline a get-out-the vote rally Friday morning at North Central High School in Indianapolis.
Many local voters seemed to share the enthusiasm. Beth Dlug, director of elections in Allen County, said that by 3 p.m. Monday, 499 people had voted at the Superior Street offices. Four years ago, in the last presidential election, the first day of early voting drew 417 voters, Dlug said.
The race between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the U.S. Senate battle between Republican state Treasurer Richard Mourdock and Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, and the contest between Pence and Democrat John Gregg top the Indiana ballot.
Pence narrowed his focus to just a few key campaign planks earlier Monday when he spoke at the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting. He promised, if elected governor, to maintain Indiana's fiscal health and cut income taxes. His passion came though when talking about vocational and technical training.
"Schools should be just as determined to make kids career-ready as college-ready," said Pence, who said he believes this path doesn't limit a child's future.
Pence told the group that his overall goal is to have more Hoosiers going to work than ever before. And he promised that his goals are not just bumper-sticker fodder. If the policies he advances as governor are not moving the needle, he will look for new avenues, he said.
While helping to hand out awards, Pence lauded the local Chamber's efforts to pass the right-to-work law last year prohibiting employees from being forced to pay union dues or fees for representation.
He said the group was "a leading voice in this state in seeing to it that Indiana became the first state in the industrialized Midwest to recognize the right of every Hoosier to live and to work under the terms and conditions of their choosing."
Daniel Altman, Gregg's campaign manager, said in an email that Gregg, a former speaker of the Indiana House, "is the only candidate for governor that has balanced the state's budget, cut Hoosier taxes and invested in education, all in a bipartisan manner. Congressman Pence has spent 12 years in Washington pushing a social agenda, and will do the same as governor."
Republicans at the local early-voting rally tossed barbs at Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but Pence did not criticize Gregg. "We've got a positive vision to take Indiana from good to great," Pence said about his plan for tax cuts, pro-business regulations and school improvements – and a reference to the past eight years with Republican Mitch Daniels as governor.
Among those joining Pence at the Magnavox Way rally were Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, and Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne.
Because of inaccurate information provided to The Journal Gazette, the site of a Republican Party rally Monday was reported as the Swiss Re building in an earlier online version of this story. Swiss Re is a former tenant of the building and was not involved in the rally.