News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 29, 2012

EDITORIAL: Governor’s race closest call of all

Both candidates highly qualified to lead state

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Come January, for the first time in eight years, someone besides Mitch Daniels will occupy the governor’s office. It will be a challenge for Daniels’ successor. No matter who wins the Nov. 6 election, the next governor faces a daunting assignment. Like him or not — and many people still do — Daniels’ leadership legacy and long list of accomplishments will go down as bold, visionary and significant.

It won’t be fun for the next governor being compared with Daniels. And it’s unlikely either Republican Mike Pence or Democrat John Gregg will completely measure up, at least not in the eyes of most Hoosiers. They are different people with different ideas. And that’s a good thing. The Statehouse could use some new blood, and these two men are both qualified for the job.

Deciding which would be the better choice, and which man gets our endorsement, is an extremely close call. It’s as close to a toss-up as we’ve encountered in recent elections. But we’re coming down ever so slightly on the side of Pence. His Roadmap for Indiana plan, while lacking in specifics, is reasonable and in line with where this state needs to devote its energy and attention. If he stays on course and resists veering off on divisive social issues, we believe he can have a successful stint as governor.

The reason this is such as a close call is because Gregg is equally qualified and a longtime friend of western Indiana. As a Knox County resident, Gregg served for 16 years as a state legislator representing portions of Sullivan, Greene and Vigo counties in the General Assembly. He rose in the ranks of leadership in the House of Representatives, and he eventually served six years as Speaker of the House before retiring, at least for a while, from politics.

Gregg’s experienced and steady hand offers Hoosiers a strong alternative for statehouse leadership, but his prolonged absence from the political scene diminished his leadership edge and name recognition, and his candidacy was slow to develop a serious campaign. His sense of humor and “aw shucks” approach to the race only went so far, and when he finally sharpened his message and began to take on Pence in a more aggressive fashion, his attacks seemed shrill, even petty.

Meanwhile, Pence enjoyed big leads in the polls from the start and was able to project an image of himself far softer than that of the partisan attack dog that came through during his recent years as a Republican Party leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. The longtime congressman was able to craft a serious campaign message and present it without vestiges of partisan rancor. His Roadmap for Indiana lists six goals that build on the Daniels’ agenda: increase private sector employment, build on strengths by investing in them; enhance the quality of the workforce; improve math and reading skills in young learners; raise graduation rates; and improve the health and well-being of Hoosier families.

The devil, they say, is in the details. But we like the Roadmap, and we’ll be anxious to see concrete ways Pence plans to advance his agenda.

Our endorsement of Pence comes with reservations, and our support could quickly diminish if as governor he allows his agenda to drift into social issues and he pursues an extremist agenda. Indiana does not need that. It has suffered through enough divisive political battles and should not be allowed to become a lab experiment for radical conservative causes.

We would trust either of these candidates with the keys to governor’s office, but we give slight edge to Pence over Gregg.