It will soon be time for newly elected governor Mike Pence to prove his critics wrong.
Pence beat challenger John Gregg in a closer-than-expected race in which he was accused of using his campaign’s major themes—jobs and the economy—to hide his conservative social agenda from Hoosier voters.
The congressman, who once described himself as a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order, hasn’t been shy in the past about promoting, as his congressional website says, “traditional moral values.” That stirs fear among many Hoosiers that Pence’s vision for carrying on the good economic work of Gov. Mitch Daniels will be clouded by forays into divisive social issues.
In the campaign, Pence stuck to his pro-business agenda, pledging to keep Indiana a business-friendly state by approving responsible budgets, weeding out unnecessary regulation, and promoting the commercialization of university research.
Pence spent a lot of time talking about filling the skills gap in our work force by emphasizing vocational education at the high school level and matching adult skills training to the needs of employers.
These and other positions articulated in his oft-mentioned “Roadmap for Indiana” made Pence a great candidate in the eyes of fiscal conservatives and many Hoosier businesses.
We hope when he takes office in January he follows through and becomes as much of a pro-business governor as he was a pro-business candidate. That will mean listening when some of Indiana’s most important private-sector employers speak out against legislation, such as the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex unions, they say will hinder their ability to recruit the best and brightest.
Cummins Inc., Eli Lilly and Co. and WellPoint are among the corporate behemoths that have spoken out against the marriage amendment, which, if it is introduced and passed in one of the next two legislative sessions, will become a ballot question in 2014.
Other issues lurk, such as last year’s attempt—derailed in the Indiana House—to allow public schools to teach creationism in science classrooms.
Devoting attention to these highly charged social issues sends all the wrong signals to the rest of the world about what it’s like to live and do business in Indiana. Gov. Daniels knows as much and, for the most part, has kept such matters at bay during his eight years in office.
Perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect a self-described social conservative like Pence to resist the freedom he’ll have, with a friendly Legislature, to push an agenda unlike anything he described in the campaign.
But if he’s serious about working with the business community and focusing on the Hoosier economy, that’s exactly what he’ll do.•
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