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Many considerations balanced in GOP chair pick

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When state Auditor Tim Berry was tapped last week to run the Indiana Republican Party, the public rejoicing among party leaders may have been as much about his popularity as it was about Gov. Mike Pence's answers to some key political questions.

In Berry, Pence made a safe, cautious choice that will leave few party leaders grumbling.

More than Gov. Mitch Daniels, who stood as a unifying leader for a previously diminished party, Pence was faced with bridging divides: splits between pro-business Republicans and social and religious conservatives and a gulf between Marion County leaders and Republicans from Indiana's outlying counties.

By the time those and many other considerations are taken up, Berry looks like a clear choice, said Craig Dunn, 4th District chairman and a member of the party executive committee who will ultimately vote on Berry July 22.

"I think what you do is you pick Tim Berry, who is well-liked by every wing of the party," Dunn said.

Dunn said he didn't see geography playing as much a factor in the decision as it might have in previous years — Berry hails from Fort Wayne — and tabbed him a consensus pick for the party based on his broad popularity and recognition in Republican circles statewide.

Berry, a two-term state auditor, also spent eight years as Indiana treasurer. Along the way, he won broad support in GOP convention halls among party activists and bigwigs to score nominations that ultimately have secured him a statewide office every year since 1998. But Berry has never been strongly identified with either the pro-business party members who worked closely with Daniels, tea partyers aligned more with Treasurer Richard Mourdock or the religious conservatives who built Pence into a national player.

More than a dozen names were floated in Republican circles over the last two weeks, each with various strengths to counter perceived weaknesses in the party. Experienced female candidates had the potential to close the major gender gap that hurt Republicans in 2012, while big-name fundraisers like Bob Grand and former state Rep. Dan Dumezich offered the firepower and connections to keep the party flush with cash heading into the 2014 elections.

But it's sometimes hard to know which candidates are being seriously considered and which are trial balloons. In the hours after Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb announced his departure last month, Mike Gentry, a longtime House Republican campaign director and close ally of House Speaker Brian Bosma, quickly launched an online campaign.

There were others, including Indiana Family Institute President Curt Smith, whose names were floated through Republican publications to gauge insider reactions. But the governor worried that picking Smith might pigeonhole him as a religious conservative, said a top Republican who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because talks with Pence and his team were private.

Other potential top candidates including Anne Hathaway, a veteran national Republican operative, and Fred Klipsch, a prominent businessman and driving force in the education overhaul movement, pulled their names from consideration because of the demands placed on anyone tasked with running the party full time, the Republican source said.

By the time Pence and his inner circle had struck some names from consideration and the candidates themselves had pulled back, Berry was the clear choice.

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  • Lugar Messed Up
    Republican PC, one of the AG's opinions was by a deputy. The AG at the time refused to sign off on it. All of the opinions carefully avoided dealing with Lugar's particular situation - that he had abandoned his property and then continued to sign documents under oath that he still lived there. No AG opinion said it was legal for Lugar to do that. A first year law student would know that you can't do that. For voting purposes, you have to have a residence you can point to that you intend to return to after your service from Washington is over. Lugar was pointing to someone else's house!!! Further, none of the opinions addressed the fact that Lugar was violating the Constitution by not being an inhabitant of the state. He had no residence in Indiana. You have to maintain a residence to qualify under Article I. Lugar didn't. Even Lugar's biggest supporters at the highest levels among Indiana Republicans had turned against him because Lugar had for so long refused to help out the GOP. If Lugar would have done anything to maintain contact with Indiana and the state GOP he would have been easily renominated and re-elected. But he chose not to do that. The problem was not Mourdock. The problem was Lugar's arrogance.
  • Campaigning for other officials
    Lugar didn't need to campaign for other officials. When he was at the top of the ticket he caused many to vote a straight ticket for the GOP. It wasn't his showing up for chicken at Lincoln Day dinners that turned out the voters for the GOP.
  • Why two homes?
    If you are a fiscal conservative you avoid maintaining 2 homes. When you go to Washington you live there. Whether you are a great Senator doesn't depend on whether you own a piece of real estate in Indiana. 3 Attorney Generals gave Lugar advise on registering at his last address in IN.
    • Lugar the Statesman
      Lugar remains the greatest elected official in Indiana history,Statesman,Wise Man of the Senate,Rhodes Scholar,Nobel Peace Prize nominee,visionary, a top 10 US Senator. Mourdoch committed political suicide with his comments about God and rape. He caused a huge shift in the women's vote towards the Democrats.
      • Mourdock
        Republican PC, Mourdock was not to blame for Sen. Lugar's downfall. Lugar did not even maintain a residence in Indiana. He voted here illegally claiming someone else's house as his residence in violation of state law. He came back to Indiana and stayed in hotels. He did not try to keep in touch with the Republican state organization and went out of his way to alienate people in the organization. He had not been back to Indiana for a state Lincoln Day Dinner for decades. He wouldn't campaign for other Republican candidates. No, the one to blame for Lugar's loss is not Richard Mourdock, but Richard Lugar. Donnelly would have opened up Lugar in the general election just like Mourdock did in the primary. Lugar had too much baggage, baggage that resulted from his own arrogance.
        • Who will be State Auditor?
          Politics pundits say that a major reason Pence chose Berry was so that Pence could pick a new Auditor and likely prevent Richard Mourdoch from running for Auditor. Many of us believe Mourdoch cost the GOP a Senate seat, definitely cost us the Superintendant of Public Instruction seat, and likely harmed Romney's bid for the Presidency.
          • Bob Grand?
            Please tell me that Gov. Pence did not for one second consider Bob Grand as state GOP chairman.

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