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In Indiana, jockeying for possible Pence replacement

July 15, 2016 GMT
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks during the Innovation Showcase, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks during the Innovation Showcase, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A number of Indiana’s Republican elected officials are jockeying for the state’s top job amid growing anticipation that Gov. Mike Pence will abandon his re-election bid to become Donald Trump’s running mate.

Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb and U.S. Reps. Todd Rokita and Susan Brooks all have signaled interest in replacing Pence as the gubernatorial nominee in November should he run for vice president, two state Republican officials said Thursday. Several others — including Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma — also have been mentioned as potential GOP candidates.

If Pence is Trump’s choice, it would dramatically reshape the top of the Indiana ballot. The speculation comes on the heels of former Democratic U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh’s announcement Wednesday that he will seek his old job, a move that turns what had seemed like a safely Republican seat into a potentially competitive race.

Trump’s decision to postpone Friday’s planned vice presidential announcement because of the deadly attack in Nice, France, causes some Indiana complications because Pence faces a noon Friday deadline to withdraw his name as a gubernatorial candidate. State law prevents someone from seeking two offices at once.

Holcomb, Rokita, Brooks and Bosma would also need to drop their re-election bids by that deadline to possibly be picked to run against former Democratic Indiana House Speaker John Gregg, who narrowly lost to Pence in 2012. But GOP officials could later restore any of them to those ballot vacancies.

Rokita and Brooks, as well as supporters of Holcomb, have contacted the state Republican committee, said two of its members, Nick Barbknecht and Barbara Krisher.

“I can see an argument for all of them, and, personally, I’m just trying to keep my options open to see everybody that presents themselves,” Barbknecht said.

The 22-member panel would have 30 days to select a new nominee for governor, but former state Republican Chairman Mike McDaniel said he expects a decision will be sooner.

“Every one of those days are eating into the campaign,” McDaniel said. “They can’t wait.”

Krisher said she didn’t have a favored candidate if the nomination opens up and expected others might jump in once a Pence decision is known.

“I’ve had some phone calls, and I think probably everyone has,” she said. “We wonder exactly how this is going to play out. Nobody seems to know.”

Rokita announced his interest in the governor’s nomination last week, pointing to his two statewide victories in elections for secretary of state before his first election to Congress in 2010.

Brooks spokesman Kristen Johnson said the two-term congresswoman has received encouragement to enter the governor’s race, but wouldn’t discuss her pursuit of the nomination.

“Until we are out of the theoretical zone we’re just not going to have a final decision on that,” Johnson said.

Holcomb met Thursday at the governor’s residence with Pence, who picked the former state Republican chairman as lieutenant governor in March after the resignation of 2012 running mate Sue Ellspermann. A Holcomb spokesman didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Bosma, who has been the Indiana House speaker since 2010, declined Thursday to discuss possibly seeking the nomination for governor. “It is all speculative at this point,” Bosma said. “I’m really not publicly speculating about it.”

One big name that won’t be in the Republican mix is Pence’s popular two-term predecessor, Mitch Daniels. The current Purdue University president announced Thursday he won’t seek the job, despite saying he had support from “apparent majority of the Republican State Committee.”

“I think it is appropriate that I make plain today that, should there be a sudden need to name a new nominee for governor, I will not present myself as a candidate nor would I accept the nomination if offered,” Daniels said in a statement.