By Robert Vane
The news that Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann was leaving the administration of Gov. Mike Pence came as a surprise to many. Clearly, they had formed a strong partnership. The immediate question became—who’s strong enough and savvy enough to fill her shoes?
Robert Vane is the principal of Veteran Strategies, Inc., a veteran business enterprise that focuses on public relations, media relations, and crisis communications. He served in the U.S. Army from 1987-1990 and earned a master’s degree in Medieval History from IUPUI. He has worked in many Republican administrations and is currently a communications consultant to the Indiana Republican Party
Quite frankly, the possibilities for drama regarding a replacement seemed immense. In an age when everything—everything—is political, these sorts of fights can have long-range and damaging effects. As disclosed below, I am on contract as the paid spokesman of the Indiana Republican Party, and I was a bit worried about what I anticipated to be a rough process and tough fight.
When Eric Holcomb’s name was released, however, all my trepidations immediately went away. Eric is a terrific, home run, superb choice not only as Gov. Pence’s lieutenant governor, but also as his running mate in what is shaping up to be a barnburner of a re-election campaign. It also reinforces the governor’s reputation as someone who can attract top talent.
Simply put, I’ve never met anyone in Indiana Republican Party politics who is better liked than Eric (my former boss in my first stint with the Indiana GOP, Murray Clark, deserves mention here as well). He could walk into a room of any group, coalition, or advocates in any part of the state, and he would be greeted as someone who will listen and someone who will take the concerns of his audience to heart.
Over the years, I’ve worked a little bit with Eric, and I’ve always been struck with how much he knows about our state and our party. He has the wisdom and judgment that is earned over time through paying his dues, building relationships, and making things happen.
Eric’s experience in state government—at the right arm of Gov. Mitch Daniels—is at the highest level and includes direct involvement and responsibility in some of Gov. Daniels’ highest profile and most successful initiatives. For example, Eric’s tireless efforts were instrumental in building and bolstering the coalition that helped pass Gov. Daniels’ Major Moves program.
On the political side, Holcomb is nearly a perfect choice as Gov. Pence’s running mate.
Start with the fact that he is from the exact same area of Indiana as putative Democrat nominee for governor, John Gregg. Why is this important? Because as Gregg desperately tries to decouple himself from the Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton train wreck, Holcomb will remind Hoosiers that Gregg is a paying passenger aboard the Hillary “I am not really going to get indicted, am I?” Express.
When Gregg refuses to denounce President Obama for blaming Chicago’s massive crime problems on Hoosiers, Holcomb will call him to account. When Gregg—a former coal lobbyist—won’t stand up for the coal industry in his own Southern Indiana backyard, Holcomb will remind him of his obligation to protect those jobs. When Gregg continues to punt on whether he supports the House Democrats irresponsible and fiscally-nightmarish roads plan, Holcomb will be there to ask, “did you support Major Moves, Mr. Speaker?”
There are many factors that go into a successful re-election campaign, but fusing together all the elements of a party is certainly at the very top of any plan. Eric Holcomb as lieutenant governor and Mike Pence’s running mate creates cohesion that only the hardest and most bitter of opponents can deny.
Eric’s tenures as chairman of the Indiana Republican Party and state director for Sen. Dan Coats make him uniquely qualified to understand and express the hopes and dreams of Hoosiers and Hoosier Republicans. Next to Gov. Pence himself, I wager no other GOP official has traveled our state so extensively.
Elections are unpredictable; the recent few cycles have made this clear. What is entirely predictable, however, is the positive impact Eric Holcomb will have on the Pence administration and the well-being of all Hoosiers.
To paraphrase Gen. Omar Bradley, Eric is the right man, for the right job, at the right moment, for the right reasons.
Robert Vane is the principal of Veteran Strategies, Inc., a veteran business enterprise that focuses on public relations, media relations, and crisis communications. He served in the U.S. Army from 1987-1990 and earned a master’s degree in Medieval History from IUPUI. He has worked in many Republican administrations and is currently a communications consultant to the Indiana Republican Party.