Indiana’s political version of musical chairs has now resolved itself into a ballot that offers Hoosiers some unanticipated choices.
Who would have predicted a re-entry of Evan Bayh into Hoosier electoral politics? Who would have imagined Mike Pence on the Trump Train? And who, exactly, is Eric Holcomb, our sudden candidate for Governor?
Holcomb, who spent something like three months as Pence’s chosen Lieutenant Governor, after the departure of Sue Ellspermann (the only woman and arguably only competent member of the Administration) has emerged as our new and improbable candidate for Governor. As part of his introduction to the Hoosier electorate, Holcomb has told media outlets that he intends to “embrace” Mike Pence’s record. Holcomb has also been quoted as saying that he is “quite proud” of Pence’s tenure, and “proud of where the state is now.”
Holcomb has thus tied himself firmly to a record that many of us predicted would elect John Gregg in November.
I can’t help wondering just how completely Holcomb really “embraces” the particulars of Pence’s record. Does Holcomb share Pence’s “culture war” goals, for example? If so, which ones?
No sane candidate is likely to promote passage of another RFRA, given the civic and economic damage caused by that unforced error, but what about adding “four words and a comma” to Indiana’s civil rights law, and protecting LGBTQ Hoosiers from being discriminated against simply because of who they are? Governor Pence adamantly opposed civil rights protections for Indiana’s gay citizens. Does Holcomb “embrace” that opposition?
And which of Governor Pence’s approaches to pre-school funding does Holcomb “embrace”—his original decision to decline an 80 million dollar grant that would have created a statewide preschool program, or the U-turn he took on that issue this year, when his original decision turned out to be politically damaging?
Speaking of education, if Glenda Ritz is re-elected as Superintendent of Public Instruction, is Holcomb prepared to let her do her job, or will he “embrace” Pence’s constant efforts to strip her of authority over the state’s educational policies? Will he “embrace” and continue Pence’s practice of diverting funds from Indiana’s public schools in order to finance the nation’s most extensive voucher program–a program that largely benefits religious schools—even though a recent Brookings Institution study confirmed that voucher students’ reading and math scores were significantly lower than the scores of similar students who remained in public schools?
Does candidate Holcomb “embrace” Pence’s continuing war on Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive rights? Did he support the bill the Governor so eagerly signed—subsequently struck down by a federal court—that, among other indignities, required women to conduct funerals for their aborted or miscarried fetuses?
Does Holcomb “embrace” and plan to continue Pence’s efforts to keep organizations like Catholic Charities and Exodus from resettling Syrian refugees in Indiana? Is he “proud” of this mean-spirited retreat from “Hoosier Hospitality”?
What about Indiana’s crumbling infrastructure? Is Holcomb “proud” of the condition of Indiana’s roads and bridges? And what about economic development? Is Holcomb “proud” that the majority of new jobs Pence brags about pay less than a living wage?
I can’t wait to hear just how far Holcomb’s “embrace” extends.