Indiana voters will find out this week who will replace Mike Pence as GOP candidate for Governor and also who will run for Lt. Governor. Patrick Pfingsten with the Corydon Group calls the campaign for Indiana Governor, “A political free for all.” With this background, how will agriculture issues fare?
On Tuesday, a Republican committee will choose which candidate will represent the party on the ballot in November. Possible candidates include current Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb; Indiana’s 5th District Congresswoman Susan Brooks; 4th District Congressman Todd Rokita; and 49th State Senate District Senator Jim Tomes.
Pfingsten says Holcomb as Lt. Governor would be the most in touch with Indiana agriculture, “For the past 4 months, he has been out and about learning about agriculture and making contacts with Indiana agriculture organizations.” Holcomb has also picked up the endorsement of Governor Mike Pence.
But Pfingsten adds that both Brooks and Rokita have shown themselves to be strong supporters of agriculture, especially on key national ag issues important to farmers, “Brooks has been a very strong supporter of the RFS while in Washington, and Rokita has backed transportation and infrastructure funding in rural areas.” Tomes has served on the State Senate Agriculture Committee.
After choosing candidate for governor, the 22-member committee will focus on choosing a Lt. Governor candidate. The process for this remains unclear with presumably the gubernatorial candidate having some say in who his or her running mate will be. This choice will be closely watched by agriculture since the Lt. Governor is also the State Secretary of Agriculture and oversees the State Department of Ag, the Energy Office, and the Office of Rural Affairs.
In theory, the candidates for Governor will meet with farmers at a Public Policy event on Wednesday sponsored by Indiana Corn and Soybean growers. If we have Lt. Governor candidates, they are supposed to square off in a debate on agriculture during the Indiana State Fair.
According to media reports, Holcomb figures to be the front-runner, with Brooks on his heels. Candidates who fail to win the gubernatorial nomination aren’t expected to have any trouble persuading the party to put them back on the ballot for their previous jobs.
The caucus-style selection process has Holcomb essentially playing on his home turf. As a former party chairman, Holcomb has close relationships with the committee members. And, he has the most natural argument: He’s already the Lieutenant Governor, the legal successor to the governorship.
The challenge ahead for Brooks will be persuading a majority of committee members that Holcomb, for all his influence within the party, lacks name recognition. Holcomb has never mounted a successful run for office.