Pence as Trump VP Pick Scrambles Indiana Politics
Rokita and Brooks want to replace Pence on gubernatorial ballot
Donald Trump’s 10:50 a.m. tweet announcing Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice presidential pick allowed the Hoosier State’s governor to do what he needed to do: withdraw his name from the gubernatorial ballot by noon on Friday.
Trump will officially deliver the news at a Saturday news conference — a one-day delay because of the terrorist attack in Nice, France.
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Pence emerged as the all-but-certain pick on Thursday, which set in motion a down-ballot domino effect among Indiana Republicans clamoring to take his place on the ballot.
Within minutes of Pence withdrawing, Republican Rep. Susan W. Brooks withdrew from the ballot for re-election to her 5th District so that she can run for governor.
Fellow Republican Rep. Todd Rokita, who represents the 4th District, had done the same by 11:45 a.m.
Candidates cannot appear on the same ballot for two different offices in Indiana, and the deadline for candidates to remove themselves from one line on the ballot is Friday at noon.
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Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb also wants to replace Pence and withdrew from his race Friday, too. Holcomb, a former aide to Sen. Dan Coats, was running to replace his former boss in the Senate before dropping out of the race earlier this year.
Pence is currently facing a competitive challenge from Democrat John Gregg, the former speaker of the Indiana House, in a contest rated Leans Republican by The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.
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There will be no public primary process to decide who gets to replace Pence. Instead, a 22-member committee that’s evenly split on gender lines will make the decision within 30 days of Pence removing himself from the ballot.
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The committee includes the GOP district chair and vice chair of each of the state’s nine congressional districts, as well as four officers of the state party.
For Rokita, a three-term member, and Brooks, in her second term, there’s some risk to removing themselves from the congressional slot on the ballot.
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If the 22-person committee doesn’t chose them, they would have to get approval from a caucus of precinct chairmen in their districts to get back on the congressional ballot for November. That’s a likely scenario, but not a guarantee.
Neither lawmaker faces a competitive general election in their Safe Republican seats.
Should Rokita be selected to replace Pence, there’ll be no shortage of Republicans looking to replace him on the ballot in the 4th District.
Possible contenders include state Sen. Randy Head, state Sen. Brandt Hershman, whom Rokita beat in the 2010 primary, former state Rep. Matthew Whetstone, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles. Holcomb could also pursue a run in the 4th District, or he could explore a bid in the neighboring 5th District if Brooks’ seat is open.
Other potential candidates in the 5th District include state Rep. Jerry Torr, Carmel Mayor James Brainard, state Sen. Jim Merritt, and state Sen. Mike Delph, who explored a long shot bid for Senate earlier this year.
Pence’s withdrawal from the gubernatorial ballot is the second major withdrawal this week in Indiana. Former Rep. Baron Hill, the Democratic nominee for Senate, withdrew from his race on Monday , allowing former Sen. Evan Bayh to replace him on the November ballot.
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