INDIANAPOLIS – Republican Mike Pence pulled out a tighter-than-expected win Tuesday night, keeping the Indiana governors seat in GOP hands for another four years.
As results rolled in, Pence had a lead of 51 percent to 45 percent over Democrat John Gregg with almost all the votes counted. Libertarian Rupert Boneham had 4 percent.
Two years ago our little family decided to seek the privilege of serving all the people of Indiana, Pence said. We presented a plan for the future and tonight Indiana chose to join us on the road to build an even better Indiana. We did it!
The celebration took place in the end zone of Lucas Oil Stadium, with the red pickup truck Pence drove at the end of the campaign next to the stage.
His new lieutenant governor is Rep. Sue Ellspermann, R-Ferdinand. Pence – a six-term U.S. congressman – never trailed in the year-long race though polls had tightened a bit in recent days.
It wasnt enough to help Gregg, though.
This has been an unbelievable ride, an unbelievable journey, Gregg said to the crowd of Democrat supporters in Indianapolis. Theres been a lot of ups and downs. Its been a roller-coaster ride.
I am sincerely sorry to all of you that we fell short, he said. We tried hard, but you know, the suns going to come up tomorrow, and it will.
The two candidates were a study in contrast – staid, conservative Pence versus jovial, mustached Gregg.
Gregg tried repeatedly to tie Pence to an extremist social agenda, pointing to his support of legislation defunding Planned Parenthood and other pieces of legislation Gregg termed anti-woman.
But Pence never took the bait, focusing consistently on jobs and education.
He told the crowd gathered in Indianapolis that he would work to earn the trust of those who supported his opponents.
The time has come to set politics aside and work together for the betterment of all Hoosiers, Pence said.
Gregg echoed that sentiment, stressing the need for all Hoosiers to work together for a better Indiana.
We need to unite as a state behind him. I told him that he would be in my prayers and best wishes and I say that sincerely, Gregg said. I want to wish him nothing but success because we are all truly in it together.
Pence, 53, grew up in Columbus, eventually graduating from law school in 1986. He and his wife, Karen, have three children.
He lost several earlier races for Congress at a younger age before focusing instead of running a conservative think tank and putting together a statewide radio show.
Then in 2000 he tried again, successfully making it to Washington, where he has served six terms. He toyed with running for president last year before deciding to seek the governors seat instead.
Gregg, 58, grew up in Sandborn in Knox County, graduating from law school in 1984. He has two sons.
He was elected to the Indiana House in 1986 and stayed through 2002, including six years as Speaker of the House.
When Gregg left the legislature, he focused on his law practice and served as an interim president of Vincennes University for about a year.
Pence reaped more through fundraising than Gregg throughout the campaign. The latest reports were filed in mid-October and showed Pence had raised about $13 million in all compared to $5.4 million for Gregg.
Last-minute contributions might alter those totals slightly.
Pence has been on the air with TV ads continuously since May that have been nothing but positive and focused on jobs, education and taxes. He has never uttered his opponents name in an ad.
Gregg, meanwhile, started in mid-August. Many of his folksy ads focused on people in his hometown of Sandborn, and virtually all of them swipe at Pence.
Both men released numerous policy proposals – some more detailed than others. Both pushed for a tax cut.
Pence wants to reduce the state individual income tax rate while also maintaining reserves. He has no plans to replace the nearly half a billion dollars a year in revenue – instead banking on a booming economy.
Gregg wanted to eliminate the sales tax on gasoline at a similar cost to state coffers. He would match the lost revenue through unidentified efficiencies in state government and by more accurately collecting sales tax on online purchases in Indiana.
Washington Editor Brian Francisco contributed to this story.