TERRE HAUTE —
A governor’s race that is lively, yet not bitter. Perhaps even civil.
Is that possible in Indiana? Or anywhere in America? John Gregg thinks so.
Though neither Gregg (a Democrat) nor Mike Pence (a Republican) have decided whether to run for governor of the Hoosier state in 2012, both seem interested. Gregg — who retired as speaker of the Indiana House in 2002 — said in a telephone interview Monday, “I haven’t said ‘yes’ yet, but I am giving it real serious consideration.” Pence, an Indiana congressman who passed on a run for president in ’12, told the Anderson Herald Bulletin on Friday that he was “open to a run for governor.”
Gregg and Pence were law school classmates at Indiana University. Pence, a former radio talk show host, got Gregg his own weekly show at WIBC-AM 1070 in Indianapolis. “Mike Pence and I are friends,” Gregg said Monday. “Mike Pence wants a better Indiana, just as I do. We just go at it in different ways.”
So, if both say “yes,” what kind of political atmosphere would a Pence-vs.-Gregg campaign generate? “We need to return to civility,” Gregg said.
“We [he and Pence] could look each other in the eye on election night or the next day and not be a bit embarrassed about what was said,” he speculated.
If they decide to run, that is.
Gregg stepped out of politics nearly nine years ago to spend more time with his family. The same priority still weighs heavily with him concerning the race for governor. One son, John, is a freshman at Butler University. The other, Hunter, is a high school junior. Last summer, Gregg and his older son spent a 12-day vacation together, and the dad got to see all of his son’s high school sports events. “And if I do this,” Gregg said of the run for governor, “I’d miss [Hunter’s] senior year, and I don’t know if I want to do that. Because, I had a ball with the other one during his senior year.”
Those are not small considerations.
“Those are major factors,” Gregg said. “That’s why I left in the first place.”
Since deciding not to seek re-election as representative of the 45th District — which then included parts of Vigo, Sullivan, Greene, Knox and Daviess counties — Gregg has stayed busy. In addition to his WIBC gig, he’s worked as an attorney and lobbyist, operating a law practice in Vincennes with the Indianapolis-based Bingham McHale firm.
He wrote a book about his political career, “From Sandborn to the Statehouse,” which was published in 2008. And he maintains his farm in Sandborn.
Gregg faced prostate cancer in 2004, but said he’ll celebrate seven years of being “cancer free” this August. After recent hip-replacement surgery, and shedding 60 pounds gradually on a Weight Watchers diet, the 56-year-old said he feels good.
Still, the heat of political races has intensified since 2002. (The tea party is attacking Richard Lugar for being too liberal.) Even if Gregg and Pence stay above the fray, things can get brutal from outside-in. As soon as Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel announced he wouldn’t run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Gregg’s name popped up, along with reminders of the controversial lifetime health-care benefit for state legislators that passed during Gregg’s time as House speaker.
After serving in the House from 1986 to 2002 — including stints as speaker, minority leader and majority leader — Gregg’s record is long enough for opposition to find vulnerable spots.
“The great thing is, those are all going to be pointed out to me, probably in the next 24 to 36 hours,” Gregg quipped.
He also seems unfazed by the state Democrats’ current lack of muscle, and doesn’t see his party as the unfocused, demoralized lot often characterized. Nationally, President Obama “probably hit his low point in the 2010 election,” Gregg said, but has recently seen his approval ratings rise to 51 percent this month. Indiana Democrats took a similar shellacking, as Obama put it, in the Statehouse races. As a result, the GOP now holds dominant majorities in the House and Senate, as well as the governorship.
“I’ve been around politics long enough that for every great defeat, there’s a great victory,” Gregg said. “It’s cyclical.
“There’s enthusiasm among the Democrats,” Gregg insisted, “and I really think my Republican friends in the Legislature are over-reaching, and that’s how I became speaker [in 1996].” In the current session of the General Assembly, Republicans have successfully moved forward not only education reform and budgetary changes, but also some parts of a conservative social agenda — a diversion from Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels’ plans.
The possibility of Gregg trying to replace Daniels dates back to 2008. Gregg toured the state with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, “and I enjoyed it.” Three years later, Gregg wanted to see if Weinzapfel would seek the governorship. “I felt like, if he wouldn’t, I’d probably consider it,” Gregg said.
And that’s what he’s doing now. Gregg isn’t sure how long he has to decide. He knows other Democrats also may want to run. (Congressman Joe Donnelly is a possibility, and former 8th District Rep. Brad Ellsworth has been mentioned.) Gregg is thinking about his kids, about the demands of running a campaign and of holding a public office.
“So those are just a couple of the issues,” Gregg said. “And there’s some issues I’ve checked off, saying, ‘Yeah, you could run.’ But I’ve still got a bunch of others to decide, and I want people to realize that I’m not to that point yet. And the kids are going to be the final decision as I’m continuing trying to work through some issues and come to a conclusion as to what I’m going to do.”
Nobody should fault him for taking time to ponder all of that.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or email@example.com.
Former Indiana House speaker says family commitments govern his decision
TERRE HAUTE —
A governor’s race that is lively, yet not bitter. Perhaps even civil.
- Mark Bennett B-Sides
Tim Meadows: SNL cast member knew he was prime time
If you watched the first broadcast of “Saturday Night Live” on Oct. 11, 1975, raise your hand.
That gives you something in common with Tim Meadows.
MARK BENNETT: Walk of Fame inductee would stand tall in any era
Unlike most of us, Amory Kinney didn’t let the wall around his comfort zone grow taller as time passed.
MARK BENNETT: Words, and what they mean, is what we remember
I remember scanning the granite wall at the grave of President John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, looking for those words.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John getting another shot at Baseball Hall of Fame
Go ahead, circle Dec. 9 on your calendar.
Filling our void: Terre Haute artist Bill Wolfe poured his heart and soul into the project of a lifetime
Bill Wolfe thumbed through a series of photographs documenting his sculpture of basketball legend Larry Bird.
MARK BENNETT: Keeping Terre Haute a vibrant city ‘worth doing’
The past, present and future had just converged at the Crossroads of America.
The moment was made possible by the gutsy spirit of 1920s Terre Haute. Without it, the city would look starkly different.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John’s Field of Dreams
A kid pedals a bicycle, a ball glove looped over the handlebar, headed to a sandlot game.
It didn’t get much better than that for a 10-year-old in summertime.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s Donnelly part of ‘The Middle’ that got deal done
Hanging out in the middle isn’t cool.
Its occupants don’t attract a captivated circle of listeners at parties, their comments don’t inspire hell-yeahs on Facebook, and they don’t pretend to always be right.
MARK BENNETT: ISU professor’s book on Churchill to be TV period drama
Somewhere, Winston Churchill is lighting a celebratory cigar in Michael Shelden’s honor.
MARK BENNETT: Restoration improves courthouse top’s standing in skyline
Terre Haute has a skyline.
From some angles, it consists of billboards, restaurant marquees and convenience-store signs. From other spots, the outlines of historic buildings, church steeples, college dorms and old industries jut into the horizon.
MARK BENNETT: Inspiring project connects Blues Festival, B&G Club members with music
Think a decade into the future. You’re relaxing amid a sea of fellow lawn-chair sitters at Seventh and Wabash, watching the 23rd annual Blues at the Crossroads Festival. Suddenly, the guy on stage starts playing your old Fender guitar. He sounds like the next B.B. King. Then, the guitarist dedicates a song to the person who donated that worn Telecaster to the youth music program in which he learned to play it.
MARK BENNETT: Even Marty McFly wouldn’t want to go back to those paydays
Reliving the 1980s may sound tempting.
Ah, simpler times. Then again … hair styles as big as mushroom clouds, “Miami Vice” jackets, the trickle-down theory, New Coke, Yugos.
OK, “Back to the Future”-style nostalgia obviously has its limits.
MARK BENNETT: Hoops film focuses on life of ‘Slick’ Leonard
Many Americans connect basketball with Indiana.
MARK BENNETT: Rose-Hulman bridge design would let people walk, run, ride across Wabash River
Four months, 500 miles and 18 towns.
In the course of compiling the “500 Miles of Wabash” series, which concludes this Sunday, Tribune-Star photographer Jim Avelis and I heard valuable insights from dozens of people who live, work and recreate along Indiana’s state river. One comment seems particularly relevant to Terre Haute, especially as the ongoing 2013 Year of the River celebration stirs ideas. The quotation affirms the potential of a stellar proposal this community ought to consider.
MARK BENNETT: When did athleticism surpass skill in sports?
Baseball has gotten too athletic.
MARK BENNETT: Steve Martin keeps Terre Haute on burner
If insults are a form of flattery, Steve Martin still likes us.
Better yet, he hasn’t forgotten us.
MARK BENNETT: At 71, Paul McCartney still rocking it eight days a week
I’ll admit, I worried about Paul McCartney during the blistering intro to “Helter Skelter.”
MARK BENNETT: Forget the cellphone, enjoy the summer
The third rail post from the left on the second-floor patio. By holding a cellphone at eye level, with your left hand, while standing perfectly still, without blinking, a faint one-bar signal was possible. Possible. Otherwise, there was no connection to the outside world at this retreat spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where my wife and I stayed earlier this month
MARK BENNETT: Time for surf, sand and a good book
I can read a book on the beach. Until I start sweating. Then it feels like exercise, minus the fitness perks. My brain shifts into neutral as the waves roll in, blissfully washing away footprints in the sand and my inclination to think. Better put, I enjoy starting a book on the beach, and finishing it later, elsewhere.
Police: Mom, son conspire to kill witness
The Clay County Sheriff’s Department seems to have prevented what it believes was a mother-and-son conspiracy to commit murder.
Banks of the Wabash Festival is more than just yearly entertainment
Pioneers think counterintuitively. Where others see widespread apathy, they focus on the possibility for progress. In a way, the 2013 Year of the River celebration began in the 1970s.
MARK BENNETT: After running for 28 hours straight, what’s another 5 miles?
Some phrases can only be uttered by a few people, or none at all.
MARK BENNETT: Glitches show limitations of high-stakes testing concept
The dog ate my homework. That age-old excuse — based on a shockingly unforeseen complication — rarely works for a kid who didn’t finish yesterday’s math assignment. Yet, in a role reversal, Indiana school children, along with their teachers and administrators, are left to accept an explanation for a disruption best described as the mother of all ironies.
MARK BENNETT: One step at a time to save lives
Remember that name.
MARK BENNETT: Sometimes, the mere posing of questions is significant
The era seems quaint now, almost like a fable. When people left their house doors unlocked. When the sight of a police officer in a school meant it was Career Day.
MARK BENNETT: New reality steers Nashville singer to Crossroads for Historical Society concert
People pass through the Crossroads of America for lots of reasons.
Business trips. College campus events. Federal prison sentences. Visits with relatives. Gas pitstops.
Or maybe a career change and a twist of fate.
Ty Brown makes his first stop in downtown Terre Haute as the headliner of a multi-band Sweet Sensations Country Jam concert May 4 in the Ohio Building — a fundraiser for the Vigo County Historical Society.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute barber ‘sharpens up’ customers for 50 years
People streamed through this section of downtown Terre Haute in those days.
“You could hardly walk by here,” John Hochhalter said, pointing toward the sidewalk outside the window.
The bustle has faded since the early 1960s. Hochhalter remains. He’s still barbering in the same shop he and late business partner Kenny Thomas opened a half-century ago this week.
MARK BENNETT: Memories, emotions rush back with announcement of new pope
I saw a pope once.Read quickly, that sentence sounds too casual, almost as if we’d crossed paths at Home Depot. Say it slowly, though, and the significance comes through.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections of grid success stir with Brent Anderson’s passing
A few hundred miles away, and nearly 40 years gone by, a special game ball still occupies a fond place in Rudy Bohinc’s memories.
Lent meets ‘The Bucket List’ in Terre Haute
Initially, the concept might conjure images of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman jumping out of an airplane or sitting atop the Pyramids. Instead, think “Lent Meets ‘The Bucket List’ in Terre Haute.”
- More Mark Bennett B-Sides Headlines
- Tim Meadows: SNL cast member knew he was prime time