Q&A: Indiana GOP Chair Anne Hathaway’s take on crowded race for governor

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Anne Hathaway, president of Hathaway Strategies and Indiana's national committeewoman on the Republican National Committee chair, has been nominated by Gov. Eric Holcomb to lead the Indiana GOP (IBJ file photo)

Since taking the reins of the Indiana Republican Party in September, Anne Hathaway has hit the ground running, working through a busy November municipal election season and helping to fill vacancies in the state Legislature.

The longtime consultant and party activist has stepped into the role at a time when the party faces one its most contested races ever for the Republican nomination for governor in 2024 and dominates most elected offices throughout the state with supermajorities in both chambers of the state Legislature and control of seven of the state’s nine U.S. Congressional districts.

Hathaway is president of Indianapolis-based Hathaway Strategies, a public affairs firm she founded in 2009. She has previous experience working on Capitol Hill as a public liaison for Vice President Dan Quayle and as a member of the George W. Bush administration, the U.S. Treasury Department and the Republican National Committee.

IBJ talked to her about the 2023 municipal elections and what to expect in 2024.

How are you settling into your new role?

It’s been a whirlwind, given the fact that we’ve had municipal elections and three [Indiana] Senate caucuses [to fill vacancies]. Former chairman Kyle Hupfer had done a great job and left the core of a great team in place, so while I thought I knew a lot, I’ve also learned a lot, but I’m having a great time working hard and having fun.

How do you think your party fared in the 2023 municipal elections, and how is that going to inform your strategy heading into 2024?

I think we had a great night. Seventy-six mayors are now Republican. I’ve already talked to Jen Hallowell, who was the [executive director] in the early 2000s, and that’s definitely at least 20 more [municipalities] over the course of the last 20 plus years that have moved to Republican, so this is an all time record. Obviously, we had some disappointments with some of the races we lost, but that’s part of the political cycle. If you take a look at the Carmel mayoral race, Sue Finkam’s victory in addition we went plus one city council seats in Hamilton County, and we won handily. There were six Republican minority candidates who ran that were from our Indiana Republican Diversity Leadership Series. We have the first Republican Black mayor, Ronald Morrell, in Marion. Tiffanie Ditlevson was elected as a city councilwoman in Fishers. Two victories from a program that’s three years old. I think that shows that we’re expanding the party and bringing in new voices, new representation. 

Evansville was a loss, but the libertarian candidate had 11 points, so that obviously had a significant impact. That’s something we’ll pay attention to going forward. Indianapolis was obviously a loss, but we did pick up a city council seat. So I think that even in some places where that result at the top of the ticket wasn’t exactly what we wanted, we moved the needle. We learned a lot about what voters want to hear and what they care about. We’re studying the numbers and doing our homework, but we also know that 2024 is going to be a big year.

It certainly will–perhaps unlike any other year–but I think people say that about every presidential election.

We do say that every year! I think every politician says, “I know I’ve said it before, but this really is the most important election of your lifetime!”

Kyle Hupfer said that the Indiana GOP held more than 90% of all county-elected offices. Have you crunched the numbers to see where that percentage is now, after the election?

We’re in the process of doing that, but I actually don’t think there will be much of a shift because where we might have lost, we also picked up, so I think that will pretty much be at parity. 

Looking ahead to 2024, what are some races that you’re keeping an eye on?

I’m focused on winning. I love the data, I love the strategy, I love the campaigning. For me, I’m just watching every race and trying to make sure that we put all the candidates in the best position to win. But most importantly, I’m focused on building the party. We’ve had a lot of Republican victories. We did well last week, but we can’t get complacent. It’s important to us to look at what we do well and what we need to improve. I’m really focused on the grassroots right now and making sure communication is open, that we are training and retraining our county officers, our volunteers, creating enthusiasm for the Republican message. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all 92 counties, their strengths and weaknesses, and how we can help them improve.

Hoosiers will choose their next governor in 2024, and at least five Republican candidates are expected to get on the May primary ballot. How did this race get so crowded?

I think Indiana is leading the pack. We are known across the country and around the world for what we’re getting accomplished, for being a great place to live, work and play. Who wouldn’t want to lead this state? I think that our success has provided excitement and interest in potentially taking things, as the governor would say, to “the next level.”

What do you think of former President Donald Trump’s endorsement of U.S. Sen. Mike Braun for Indiana governor? How much weight does that carry with Indiana Republican voters?

Ultimately the voters will decide. It comes down to the voters and which candidate’s message resonates with them. The party will remain neutral until after the primary election. Our Republican candidates are impressive, and we look forward to working with the Republican candidate in May.

You mentioned earlier how the GOP has been recruiting younger, more diverse candidates, which is true of both parties. Should we expect this trend to continue?

I hope so. We need to build a party with fresh faces to partner with our more experienced elected officials. It’s how we make sure that our state continues to grow and stays on track.

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