Eric Holcomb, the new Republican candidate for Indiana governor, is sticking closely to Gov. Mike Pence's record, which Democrats have spent months attacking in hopes of winning the state's top office.
During a news conference Monday introducing state Auditor Suzanne Crouch as his running mate, Holcomb said that he's "quite proud" of where Indiana stands after the past 12 years of Republican governors.
Thus far, he has embraced Pence's approach toward fiscal matters while ducking questions over whether he will embrace the social issues that have been a hallmark to Pence's time as governor.
How Holcomb, the current lieutenant governor, introduces himself to voters around the state over the next three month will be a key in whether he can defeat Democratic candidate John Gregg, a former Indiana House speaker who lost a close race to Pence in 2012.
The Indiana Republican state committee voted Monday to confirm Holcomb's pick of Crouch as the party's candidate for lieutenant governor. The move completed a reshuffling of the November ballot set in motion when Pence dropped his re-election bid on July 15 to become Donald Trump's vice presidential running mate.
Trump has cited much of Pence's re-election playbook in promoting his selection of the national ticket, touting Indiana's improving unemployment rate, tax cuts and funding increases for schools.
Gregg had been locking a tight campaign against Pence, criticizing him over Indiana's average incomes lagging behind national marks and focusing on social issues, such as last year's religious objections bill that sparked a national uproar after Pence signed it into law.
Holcomb, who was a top aide to Pence's two-term predecessor, Mitch Daniels, said Indiana has advanced under 12 years of Republican governors after the previous Democratic governors lacked "the courage to take on big problems."
"I'm quite proud of where our state is right now. I'm quite proud of it, and I'll run on this record," Holcomb said. "I'll run on the record of the last 12 years, by the way. I don't want to return to the 12 years prior. Suzanne and I are our own people. We'll work together daily and we'll invest all of our time and energy in making sure the state stays on the track it's on—and that's the right track."
Gregg campaign spokesman Jeff Harris said Pence and Holcomb have been focused on an ideological social agenda rather than offering plans to create better-paying jobs and fixing the state's roads and bridges.
"I think regardless of whose name is on the ballot, Hoosiers are sick and tired of that emphasis on issues that don't really matter," Harris said. "From the campaign perspective, we're pleased that Eric Holcomb is wrapping himself around these failed policies."
Holcomb announced Friday his selection of Crouch, who was a state legislator from Evansville and a Vanderburgh County commissioner before Pence appointed her state auditor in early 2014.
Holcomb, a 48-year-old former state Republican Party chairman who has never been elected to office, became lieutenant governor in March after Pence's 2012 running mate, Sue Ellspermann, resigned to seek the presidency of Ivy Tech State College.
Crouch, 64, of Evansville, was a Vanderburgh County commissioner before being first elected to the Indiana House in 2005. She rose to become vice chairman of the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee, a position she held when Pence appointed her state auditor. She won election to a full term as auditor later that year.