This is the second of three stories about candidates for Indiana governor. Today’s story looks at Republican Mike Pence.
INDIANAPOLIS – Republican Mike Pence didn’t serve in an elected office until he was 41. But he was always trying to guide public policy.
When his first attempts to run for Congress didn’t pan out in 1988 and 1990, he became president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. The entity conducted and circulated research on a number of state and federal policy issues.
Then in 1993 Pence branched out with his own statewide radio show, which mainly focused on politics.
By 2000, he was ready to try again and was elected to the U.S. Congress.
Six terms later, the 53-year-old Pence wants to guide the state of Indiana as governor. He faces Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham.
It’s true to say I’m one of those people that had the dream of public service planted at a very early age, he said.
Raised by Irish Catholics, his family was not political – focusing on work and church. Then along came the 1960s and President John F. Kennedy.
I was very inspired by his life and example, Pence said, noting he still has a bust of JFK in his campaign headquarters.
When he became active in politics in the mid-1970s he was the youth coordinator for the Democratic Party in Bartholomew County.
But after college along came President Ronald Reagan and Pence migrated quickly to the Republican Party.
I started to listen to the common sense, Midwestern ideals of limited government, fiscal responsibility and a strong national defense, he said. One thing that drew me to Ronald Reagan was that he took strong positions but he did so gently.
During his campaign for governor, Pence has rolled out a road map of ideas mostly focusing on jobs and education.
Married for 27 years, the father of three has been determined since the beginning to run a relentlessly positive, substantive campaign.
This is in large part related to a nasty campaign he ran early on for Congress, which resulted in him penning an essay against negative campaigning.
A few examples of his proposed governing agenda are to reduce the state income tax across the board, improve vocational and career technical education and freeze new regulations for business.
The overarching goal, though, is to have more Hoosiers going to work than ever before in our state’s history. Everything – the well-being of our communities, our families, success in education – all flows out of a good-paying job.
Pence has praised current Gov. Mitch Daniels repeatedly and said he wants to build an even better Indiana.
But he also says he won’t just be a caretaker.
Pence’s Democratic opponent, John Gregg, has countered that Pence is hiding his true self – one focused on extreme social issues.
But Pence said he is merely listening to Hoosiers.
Hoosiers have told me that the next governor of Indiana needs to focus on jobs and education, he said. I’m pro-life. Most people know that. But I think this election is about jobs and schools, so we have endeavored to focus our energies and to focus our campaign on what Hoosiers are focused on.
That’s what’s most urgent right now.
GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma said Pence – an old law school buddy along with Gregg – hasn’t changed his philosophies or convictions in any way.
He’s just committed to the most important issues right now – fiscal integrity, job creation and a good education for kids, he said.
Bosma also noted that Pence is not always staid and reserved.
He’s very personable, but he’s also a serious guy. If you are sitting down with John Gregg you have to get through 10 minutes of jokes. Mike’s not like that, he said.
He’s just a serious person. Caring, always asks about you and your family specifically and not just in passing.
In several polls, Pence is said to have at least a 10-point lead. But he said the only poll that counts is on Election Day.
And he isn’t getting distracted by a steady rumor that he might run for president in 2016.
Pence flirted with the idea in early 2011 before choosing the governor’s race instead.
We had some folks talk to us about that two years ago, and we chose Indiana, he said. I have every confidence that if we have the privilege to serve as governor, that 110 percent of our focus is on building a more prosperous future for the people of Indiana.
But he didn’t say he would not consider the issue if pressed again by outside interests.
Instead, he said he believes Mitt Romney will win the presidential election and right the course for the country.