Governor-elect Eric Holcomb on Wednesday credited Donald Trump's landslide presidential victory in Indiana for the GOP election sweep in the state.
Holcomb had never before been elected to public office. He had been appointed as Gov. Mike Pence's lieutenant governor only eight months ago. He raced to introduce himself to voters after replacing Pence as the Republican candidate in July when Pence became Trump's vice presidential running mate.
Trump romped to a 19-percentage-point victory in Indiana over Democrat Hillary Clinton, a margin that provided an invaluable boost to Holcomb as he defeated Democrat John Gregg by six percentage points.
Holcomb said he spoke by phone Tuesday night with Pence and Trump, and that he felt "wonderful" about Trump's election despite expressing reservations about the New York businessman a month ago.
"I expressed to him last night that he drew people out to vote who, I believe, never had before and folks who had maybe voted for the team that wore the other jersey," Holcomb said.
The only Democrat in a statewide office — incumbent state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz — was ousted by Republican Jennifer McCormick, currently the superintendent of the Yorktown Community Schools near Muncie. Ritz frequently had clashed with Republican legislators and Pence over education policy during the past four years.
Holcomb's running mate, state Auditor Suzanne Crouch, was elected lieutenant governor, while Republican Curtis Hill, the prosecutor in northern Indiana's Elkhart County, was elected the new state attorney general.
Republicans won 70 Indiana House seats, keeping them over the two-thirds majority mark needed to take action even if no Democrats are present. Democrats had hoped to pick up at least the five seats needed to break the supermajority, but gained only a single seat.
Republicans also are keeping their vast state Senate supermajority as they added a seat to assume a 41-9 margin.
Holcomb, 48, will take office as governor on Jan. 9 after having mostly been a behind-the-scenes political operative, including time as a top aide to Gov. Mitch Daniels and as state Republican Party chairman. He spent 10 months running for this year's Republican U.S. Senate nomination, but had little fundraising success. He dropped out when Pence picked him to become lieutenant governor in March, after Pence's 2012 running mate, Sue Ellspermann, resigned to become president of Ivy Tech Community College.
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said Holcomb has had a good relationship with legislators during his work inside and outside state government over the past 12 years.
Bosma said their shared priorities included maintaining the state's budget surplus, slowly expanding the state-funded preschool program and developing a long-term plan to boost highway funding.
"It's not going to be a major alteration of course," Bosma said. "... We're going to keep working together with the new governor."
House Democratic leader Scott Pelath of Michigan City said many Democratic candidates simply couldn't overcome the large Trump margins around the state and that Holcomb faced a difficult job to meet expectations.
"He's got to move Indiana's economy toward the middle of the 21st century," Pelath said.
Holcomb began work toward taking over the governor's office by naming a 16-member transition team led by two people who he worked with during the Daniels administration. They are former Daniels chief of staff Earl Goode and former Department of Natural Resources Director Kyle Hupfer, who was Holcomb's campaign treasurer.
Holcomb said he believed voters supported his message of sticking with policies adopted under Daniels and Pence.
"Hoosiers all over the state of Indiana said (Tuesday) night that they want to keep this state moving forward, that they want to continue the forward momentum and like the direction the state is heading," he said. "They did not want to do a U-turn."