By Lesley Weidenbener
INDIANAPOLIS – State Treasurer Richard Mourdock – a controversial political figure who lost a bid for the U.S. Senate after divisive remarks about rape and pregnancy –stepped down from his post Friday with about four months to go in the term.
The conservative Republican said in a statement he is leaving the office early to pursue other professional interests, including those related to helping Americans save for retirement and for post-high school education. He did not say why that would require him to leave the job before the end of the year.
Gov. Mike Pence has appointed Daniel Huge to serve in an interim capacity as treasurer until the term ends and a new treasurer is appointed. Mourdock had served two terms and was not eligible to run again.
“Daniel Huge brings a strong background in financial services, and I am confident he will ensure continuity of operations in the treasurer’s office,” Pence said.
Huge is a certified public accountant with 30 years of financial, accounting and audit experience. He currently serves as the chief financial officer and chief operating officer of the Indiana Finance Authority and has previously held positions with the Capital Improvement Board and Indiana Bond Bank.
Democrat Mike Claytor and Republican Kelly Mitchell are running for treasurer in November. Both issued statements Friday.
Mitchell, who worked for Mourdock in the treasurer’s office, said she was “shocked and surprised” by his decision. Mitchell said she’d been approached about serving as the interim treasurer but asked Pence not to consider her for the post.
“Given that the next 60 days are the most intense days on the campaign trail, my focus right now is to be sure that the voters of Indiana get to know me and my values, and that I work hard to earn their vote on Election Day,” she said.
Claytor criticized Mourdock’s decision, particularly because the treasurer serves on the three-member Board of Finance – which oversees state fiscal management and approves transfers and loans – with the governor and Auditor Suzanne Crouch, who was also appointed to her position when the elected auditor resigned last year.
“Gov. Pence will now have two handpicked officials to serve on the State Board of Finance with him,” Claytor said. “The State Board of Finance was designed to be three separately elected officials, not two people appointed by the governor to serve along with the governor. There is absolutely no independence on that board right now when they vote on how to spend your hard-earned taxpayer dollars.”
Mourdock had been seen as a political figure on the rise when he ran for treasurer eight years ago. He easily won reelection in 2010.
Then in 2012, he ran for U.S. Senate, knocking off long-time Republican Richard Lugar in the primary before facing Democrat Joe Donnelly in November. Mourdock had a slight lead in the race but then, in a televised debate, said that God intended pregnancies that result from rapes. The remark set off a firestorm that led a number of Republicans to distance themselves from Mourdock.
Mourdock later said he abhors violence and rape and that he’s confident the “God that I worship abhors violence, abhors sexually violence and abhors rape.” But he did not apologize for making the remarks, saying instead that he is sorry so many people “mistook, twisted, (and) came to misunderstand” his points.
The Republican then dropped in the polls and Donnelly won the race.
Mourdock also caused a stir this summer when he gave a farewell speech at the Indiana Republican Convention. Mourdock compared the United States to Germany, just before World War II.
“The truth is 70 years later, we are drifting towards the beachhead of bankrupting the USA,” Moudock said, alluding to that week’s anniversary of the Normandy invasion in World War II. “We are in a grave situation.”
Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.