Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's pick to replace him on the November ballot is suggesting that other Republicans seeking the nomination might not get help from Pence's $7 million campaign fund should GOP leaders go against the governor's wishes.
In an email obtained by The Associated Press, Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb told the 22-member Indiana Republican state committee, which will vote Tuesday on Pence's replacement, that Pence has made it "crystal clear that he will assist me in maintaining control of the Governor's office."
"I know from speaking directly with him that his support is not symbolic, but rather it is a commitment to the financial backing, staffing, and resources available through the Mike Pence for Indiana Campaign Committee," Holcomb wrote. "That is something no other candidate in this race can boast."
Al Hubbard, an Indiana GOP mega-donor and former George W. Bush adviser, characterized Holcomb's letter as "threatening" and said "I'm annoyed that Eric and his people would suggest that Mike is not going to support 100 percent who the committee choses."
"I'm a major donor to [Pence's] $7.1 million and I can assure you that if Mike does not use that money to support the party's nominee, his major donors will go crazy," Hubbard said Sunday. "We gave that money to the Republican nominee, not to Mike Pence to do whatever he wants."
Holcomb spokesman Pete Seat said the lieutenant governor wasn't saying Pence wouldn't support a different GOP nominee.
"Eric is speaking directly on conversations he has had with the governor regarding Eric's candidacy specifically," Seat said.
A spokesman for Pence did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The message was the latest in the flurry of behind-the-scenes lobbying since Pence withdrew from the governor's race July 15 after the Republican Donald Trump plucked him to be his vice presidential running mate.
Holcomb's email was sent out Saturday evening, a day after Pence publicly endorsed him over prominent rivals U.S. Reps. Susan Brooks and Todd Rokita.
Advocates for Brooks say Pence's endorsement and Holcomb's letter come as the congresswoman was building considerable support within the committee. They say she has a strong resume as an elected official and former U.S. attorney and would be the most electable general election candidate against Democrat John Gregg, the former Indiana House speaker who narrowly lost to Pence in the 2012 election.
When endorsing Holcomb, Pence wrote to the committee that the "decision is yours alone, and I will respect that decision and support the nominee you deem fit to serve."
Brooks' campaign says that Holcomb's letter suggests otherwise.
"The idea that his network, financial or otherwise, would pack up if someone other than Eric Holcomb were selected seems very inconsistent with the governor's own words," Brooks spokeswoman Dollyne Sherman said.
Rokita, who twice won statewide elections as secretary of state, has met with officials from the Republican Governors Association, which has donated more than $2 million in ads and cash to Pence, Rokita spokesman Tim Edson said.
"The RGA made clear that its organization will move to the Republican nominee," he said.
Pence, a prolific fundraiser who has a national network of donors, amassed more than $7 million in available money for his re-election campaign before withdrawing from the governor's race.
Holcomb, a former state Republican chairman who has never been elected to office, has touted his eight years as an aide and campaign manager to former Gov. Mitch Daniels and four months as lieutenant governor. Pence picked Holcomb after his 2012 running mate, Sue Ellspermann, resigned in March.