KRULL: We're beginning to see the real Pence

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John KrullNow that the 2013 General Assembly has wrapped up, a few things about the state’s new governor, Republican Mike Pence, have become clear.

That’s a good thing, because many Hoosiers didn’t know much about him or what he would do as governor when he took office.

Given that Pence has been in public life for nearly a quarter century, this was odd. His campaign for governor didn’t help matters.

By the time the votes were counted in November, all most Hoosiers really knew about Pence was that he loved his wife, pickup trucks, roadmaps and a 10-percent personal income tax cut—this last being a kind of cure-all for whatever might ail the state.

He also faced doubts within his own party.

I remember having a drink with a longtime GOP political professional early in the session who spoke about the nervousness Republicans felt in regard to Pence.

“He’s never managed anything larger than a congressional staff and now he’s got to run the whole state,” the guy said. “Worse, he’s got to follow Mitch Daniels.”

That last sentence summed up Pence’s biggest challenge.

In some ways, Pence’s dilemma paralleled that of the late Frank O’Bannon. Like Pence, O’Bannon succeeded a high-profile and immensely popular governor—in O’Bannon’s case, Evan Bayh—who had won the gratitude of his party by leading them out of the wilderness.

Before Bayh was elected in 1988, Democrats had been out of the Governor’s Office for 20 years. Before Daniels was elected in 2004, Republicans had been denied the state’s highest office for 16 years.

However, for O’Bannon, being governor culminated a career of service in state government. He had been a member of the Senate and lieutenant governor before he took the oath of office as governor.

Pence came to state government as an outsider—and one who was perceived to have ambitions well beyond the Governor’s Office. His first day on the state’s payroll was the day he raised his hand and pledged to assume the responsibilities of the state’s highest office.

It took people a little while to get to know this new governor, but they have begun to figure some things out about him—much of it good.

Perhaps the most important thing Hoosiers have realized about Pence is that he can adjust. One of the great fears about him coming in was that he would prove to be an unbending ideologue.

He demonstrated, though, during the negotiations over the personal income tax cut that he was willing to accept half a loaf. Instead of 10 percent, he got a 5-percent cut that will be phased in over four years.

On other fronts, though—school vouchers, for example—he showed he is willing to take a determined stand.

There are three camps now in the voucher debate in Indiana—those adamantly opposed; those wanting to improve educational performance but only willing to continue support as long as they prove effective; and those who see them as a new kind of entitlement, an assertion of parental rights rather than an educational experiment.

The governor is in that last group and he fought hard to expand the state’s already expansive commitment to vouchers.

So, after these first few months of his governorship, Pence has revealed himself as a man who knows how to pick his spots but also is willing to stand firm for what he believes.

There are worse qualities a governor could have.•


Krull directs Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, hosts the weekly news program “No Limits” on WFYI-FM 90.1, and is executive director of The Statehouse File. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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  1. I think the poster was being sarcastic and only posting or making fun of what is usually posted on here about anything being built in BR or d'town for that matter.

  2. Great news IRL fans: TURBO the IMS sanctioned movie about slugs running the Indy 500 has caught the Securities and Exchange Commission because Dreamworks had to take a $132MILLION write down...because the movie was such a flop. See, the Indy/IMS magic soiled another pair of drawers. Bwahahahahahaha! How's CARTOWN doing? HAHAHAHA...Indy is for losers.

  3. So disappointed in WIBC. This is the last straw to lose a good local morning program. I used to be able to rely on WIBC to give me good local information, news, weather and traffic on my 45 minute commute.Two incidents when I needed local, accurate information regarding severe weather were the first signs I could not now rely on WIBC. I work weekend 12 hour nights for a downtown hospital. This past winter when we had the worst snowfall in my 50 years of life, I came home on a Sunday morning, went to sleep (because I was to go back in Sunday night for another 12 hour shift), and woke up around 1 p.m. to a house with no electricity. I keep an old battery powered radio around and turned on WIBC to see what was going on with the winter storm and the roads and the power outage. Sigh. Only policital stuff. Not even a break in to update on the winter storm warning. The second weather incident occurred when I was driving home during a severe thunderstorm a few months ago. I had already gotten a call from my husband that a tornado warning was just southwest of where I had been. I turned to WIBC to find out what direction the storm was headed so I could figure out a route home, only to find Rush on the air, and again, no breaking away from this stupidity to give me information. Thank God for my phone, which gave me the warning that I was driving in an area where a tornado was seen. Thanks for nothing WIBC. Good luck to you, Steve! We need more of you and not the politics of hatred that WIBC wants to shove at us. Good thing I have Satellite radio.

  4. I read the retail roundup article and tried Burritos and Beers tonight. I'm glad I did, for the food was great. Fresh authentic Mexican food. Great seasoning on the carne asada. A must try!!! Thanks for sharing.

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