New Indiana Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Holcomb has received his first big infusion of campaign cash as he ramps up efforts to introduce himself to voters with about three months left before the November election.
A state disclosure report filed Wednesday shows Gov. Mike Pence's state campaign committee gave nearly $1.25 million to Holcomb, who is the lieutenant governor, last week.
The money is important because Holcomb must quickly build a statewide campaign against Democratic candidate John Gregg after state Republican leaders picked Holcomb to replace Pence, who dropped his re-election bid July 15 to become Donald Trump's vice presidential running mate.
Holcomb had boasted of access to Pence's $7 million campaign fund as he tussled with U.S. Reps. Susan Brooks and Todd Rokita ahead of the GOP state committee vote making him the nominee last week. But transferring the governor's campaign money has been complicated by federal rules limiting the size of contributions that now apply to Pence as a federal candidate.
Holcomb, a former state Republican chairman, said this week he didn't expect any problems raising the money needed for his campaign.
"I am extremely encouraged that we will be financially resourced," he said. "It is going well and we are just a matter of days into it."
While Republicans reshuffled their gubernatorial ticket, Gregg went from being in a contentious rematch of his narrow 2012 loss to Pence to being afford the time to put out television ads and raise money. Gregg had about $5.8 million in campaign money at the end of June, and contributions since then includes $500,000 from the Democratic Governors Association and $200,000 from Chicago media billionaire Fred Eychaner.
The Holcomb campaign's finance committee includes many of Indiana's most prominent Republican campaign donors, several of whom raised money for Pence's 2012 and 2016 gubernatorial campaigns.
Holcomb spokesman Pete Seat declined to say Wednesday how much more money was expected from the Pence campaign.
"At the end of the day, it's their account and they are the ones who should speak for every penny of it and how it will be utilized," Seat said. "We're grateful for any and all support and are confident we'll have the resources to get our message up and out."
Pence campaign spokesman Marc Lotter didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday.
The Democratic Governors Association, which first raised questions last week about Holcomb using Pence's campaign cash, will closely monitor how that money is distributed, spokesman Jared Leopold said.
"It seems pretty clear that Republicans are desperately seeking some sort of end around to a problem they created," he said.
National campaign finance expert Jim Bopp, a Republican attorney from Terre Haute, said legal issues may keep some of the Pence money from going directly to Holcomb. He declined to specify what actions might need to be taken to give the money to other political organizations.
"I think, ultimately, all of it can be used to support Holcomb's candidacy," Bopp said.