EDITORIAL: New candidate for governor needs broad agenda

July 23, 2016

Republicans will get a sort of do-over on July 26 the party’s central committee gathers to pick a new nominee for governor, a ballot position that opened when Donald Trump made Gov. Mike Pence his running mate.

Pence—ironically picked for the national ticket in part to unify the party—has been a lightning rod for controversy in Indiana, particularly among business leaders who often embrace conservative economic policies while renouncing right-wing social agendas.

And so we’ll share what we’d like to see the 22 members of the central committee consider as they choose the next GOP candidate for governor.

We hope the Republican nominee will:

• Embrace former Gov. Mitch Daniels’ truce on social issues in favor of a focus on economic challenges. Daniels didn’t shy away from signing bills restricting abortion or cracking down on illegal immigration when they came to his desk. But those issues were not his emphasis. We hope they won’t be the priority for the next governor either.

• Be open to legislation that would expand civil rights protections to gay and lesbian Hoosiers. Republicans have said repeatedly they do not support discrimination against the LGBT community. Let’s put that into law.

• Diversify state funding for transportation. Indiana is too reliant on the gas tax—a source of revenue that’s falling—to pay for road and bridge projects. For years, lawmakers in Indiana have talked about alternatives, such as usage fees based on miles traveled. So far, though, the logistics of tracking miles and fear of being accused of raising taxes have prevented any proposals from moving forward. We need a governor ready to lead on this issue.

• Acknowledge that a diversity of energy sources is good for Indiana. We don’t expect any Indiana governor to completely give up the fight to use coal. But refusing to create an energy plan that will move Indiana in the direction of new Environmental Protection Agency rules for clean air isn’t helpful—and it could give too much control to federal officials who don’t understand our economy.

• Support Pence’s Regional Cities Initiative, which has helped communities rethink their futures and collaborate on ideas that will grow their local economies. It would be foolish not to wait and evaluate the progress in Evansville, Fort Wayne and South Bend—the regions that received the first grants—before making new money available. But the GOP candidate should be prepared to help communities make this exciting effort a success.

• Continue to improve transparency in state government, particularly at the Indiana Economic Development Corp. Daniels and Pence have made good strides toward putting more state and IEDC financial information online. But state officials—at the legislative and administrative levels—remain too quick to look for exceptions to the open records laws rather than finding ways to give the public more information. It’s time for an attitude adjustment.

The Indiana Republican Party is fortunate to have several smart and experienced candidates to choose from as leaders mull a decision about their next nominee. That means the central committee can be choosy. We urge Republicans to think critically about Indiana’s future as they make this important choice.•


To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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