Governor and State Government and Elections and Politics and Government & Economic Development and Government

Gregg, Pence tap women for gubernatorial tickets

May 21, 2012

With the addition of two women to gubernatorial tickets, it's almost guaranteed that the next duo to run Indiana will be a man and a woman — for the third consecutive time.

Republican candidate Mike Pence toured the state Monday with his choice for lieutenant governor: state Rep. Sue Ellspermann. The pair said they will focus on economic development if elected in November and said her candidacy is not about attracting female voters, but about choosing the best candidate.

"I am a woman of course, but I think I have the qualifications very much on my own," Ellspermann said Monday during a stop in Indianapolis.

Democratic candidate John Gregg, meanwhile, is set to announce that longtime Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson will join his ticket. Libertarian candidate Rupert Boneham is running with Brad Klopfenstein.

Ellspermann's nomination will have to be confirmed at the state Republican convention on June 9 in Indianapolis. The state Democratic convention is a week later in Fort Wayne, where the party will have to confirm Simpson's nomination. Gov. Mitch Daniels can't seek re-election this year because of term limits.

The announcements virtually guarantee that Indiana will continue its string of white, male governors who have a white woman as second in command. Gov. Mitch Daniels has run Indiana since 2005 with Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, and former Gov. Joe Kernan chose Indiana's first female lieutenant governor, Kathy Davis, in 2003.

A Democrat who spoke to Simpson on Monday confirmed her pick to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the pick has not been publicly announced yet. The formal announcement is slated for Tuesday afternoon at the Statehouse.

Neither the Gregg campaign nor a Simpson spokeswoman returned requests for comment Monday.

However, Simpson's pick should help solidify support among liberal Democrats and potentially open up the wallets of Democratic donors turned off by Gregg's anti-abortion stance and opposition to same-sex marriage.

"The most key consideration is having someone who can govern should I become unable to," Gregg said of his deciding factor earlier in the day, before Simpson's name leaked out.

Simpson has served in the Senate since 1984 and briefly ran for governor in 2004. Most recently, she led Senate Democrats in battle against right-to-work legislation.

Pence announced Ellspermann's selection in her hometown of Ferdinand in southwestern Dubois County. Ellspermann has been director of the University of Southern Indiana's Center for Applied Research, which aims to find ways for the Evansville school to help businesses in the region, and she previously had her own business consulting firm.

"We're leaning on her for guidance and counsel about how we can promote policies and practices that will encourage investment in Indiana," Pence said shortly after his announcement Monday morning.

Ellspermann scored a political coup for Republicans in the 2010 election by defeating then-Democratic House Majority Leader Russell Stilwell as 12 Republicans won Democratic-held seats to regain control of the Indiana House with a 60-40 majority.

She has been a reliable supporter of the GOP agenda in the Legislature over the past two years, voting in favor of private school vouchers, the right-to-work law and banning most state funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

Earlier Monday, Gregg targeted Ellspermann's support for the bill to slash Planned Parenthood funding and Pence's unsuccessful efforts to push similar cuts through Congress last year during a spending debate that threatened to shut down the federal government.

"There are offensive benefits and defensive benefits" to Ellspermann's pick, said former state Rep. Mike Murphy, an Indianapolis Republican. She is a highly educated leader with deep economic development experience, he said, but sharing roots in Gregg's home territory of southwest Indiana could nullify some of his support there.

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