AP NEWS

Holcomb tardy to race, now governor

November 10, 2016 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS – GOP Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb needed only about 100 days of campaigning to best Democrat John Gregg on Tuesday night in the gubernatorial race.

His win keeps the seat in Republican hands for a fourth straight term. Final official results were not in but Gregg conceded and late Tuesday Holcomb’s margin was 52 percent to Gregg’s 45 percent. Libertarian Rex Bell earned 3 percent.

“When we kicked this thing off, you heard what I heard. You heard: Holcomb can’t raise enough money. Holcomb can’t put a credible statewide campaign together in this short amount of time. Holcomb can’t do this, and Holcomb can’t do that. Well, they were partly right, Holcomb couldn’t do it, but we did it,” the governor-elect said.

He also said, “Folks, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

His winning running mate is state Auditor Suzanne Crouch.

The mood at the GOP party was ebullient as the party swept all the top races in the state. Many polls leading up to election day showed Gregg leading and the loss struck Democrats gathered in Indianapolis hard.

The conventional wisdom was that Donald Trump and Gov. Mike Pence’s strong showing led to high turnout for Republicans.

“Bear with me, this was not the speech I had planned on giving,” Gregg said. “Indiana is a great place and still has a bright future.”

He said Democrats can still win despite a tough night and urged people to view this as a time to re-energize the party.

“This may be the last time that my name is on the ballot,” he said. “Do not give up. We fought the good fight.”

Gregg has essentially been running for the office nonstop since he lost the race in 2012 to Pence.

Gregg has been on the road all of 2016 – compared with Holcomb, who was catapulted into the race in late July without a campaign structure or team in place.

Holcomb was chosen by a core group of Indiana Republicans to replace the vacancy on the ballot caused by Pence running for vice president. Holcomb had been lieutenant governor only since March. Before that, he was running for another race altogether – the U.S. seat left open by Dan Coats’ retirement.

“It’s been a wacky ride in politics this year,” Gregg said.

He spent 16 years in the Indiana House, including six years as speaker of the House from 1996 through 2002. He left to focus on family and his law practice, while also doing a stint as interim president of Vincennes University.

But he was drawn back to public service in 2012 when he ran against Pence for the open seat left by Gov. Mitch Daniels. Gregg ultimately lost by just 4 percentage points.

Holcomb has spent most of his career working behind the scenes in partisan roles. He stepped to the forefront in March when he accepted the appointment as lieutenant governor. Before that, he spent eight years in varying positions working for the Daniels’ administration or campaign. He also ran the Indiana Republican Party for three years.

Holcomb promised to continue the positive momentum Indiana has had under Daniels and Pence – pointing to wage growth and increases in the high-tech sector.

He wants to give state police troopers a raise, expand pre-kindergarten to more low-income children and expand the regional cities program.

Gregg ran a campaign focused on Indiana’s low wages in comparison to other states. He released a number of specific policy proposals focusing on economic development and an infrastructure plan for roads and broadband, and pushed a universal pre-kindergarten program.

Holcomb said he will meet today with his transition team to set the stage for the first 100 days of his term.

“We’re going to build a team of public servants solely, solely dedicated to the continued prosperity of our state, people who care about Hoosiers, people who demand excellence and people who serve others above all else,” he said. “Our team will bring transformational and generational equation-changing policies and projects to Hoosier communities large and small. No corner of our state will be ignored.”

The race drew millions in outside money – from special interests invested in the race but not necessarily Hoosier voters. The majority of Holcomb’s money came from the Republican Governors Association – more than $7.3 million. That is out of about $12 million raised.

The Democratic Governors Association also contributed mightily to Gregg’s campaign – with $3 million. But he raised about $15.3 million overall – including donations given in 2015.

Rep. Christina Hale, Gregg’s running mate, said “we were in this race for all the right reasons. We were the prepared campaign ready to lead. I’m sorry that wasn’t reflected in the vote.”

nkelly@jg.net