Indiana’s governor-elect—much like America’s president-elect—is coming into office with little experience in governing. Donald Trump’s foray was in the business world and reality TV and Eric Holcomb spent most of his life serving the Republican Party.
Before being tapped by Gov. Mike Pence to be lieutenant governor, Holcomb had mostly functioned in the background serving as advisor to former Gov. Mitch Daniels and Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Dan Coats. Prior to working for Coats, Holcomb did a brief stint as the chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, and later when Coats decided not to run for re-election, Holcomb announced his intention to run.
However, his campaign was short-lived when Pence selected him to fill the remainder of Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann’s term after she resigned to become head of Ivy Tech Community College.
Holcomb was elected in a GOP sweep that will give him a Republican majority in both houses of the Indiana State Legislature. Although the new governor has yet to spell out his agenda, observers believe that he will not stray far from the one established by his predecessors Daniels and Pence.
While having visited Northwest Indiana earlier in the year, Holcomb, unlike Pence who visited Gary on several occasions did not make any stops in the urban areas.
Rep. Charlie Brown, like many of his fellow legislators, has never met Holcomb and is not sure as to what to expect. “I don’t know anything about him; in fact, if we were walking down the same street, I wouldn’t be able to recognize him,” said Brown. “I wouldn’t be surprised if (he) follows the Daniels –Pence playbook.”
Democratic mayors and legislatures are taking a wait-and-see approach to the new administration. Local Democratic officials plan to meet this month to craft their legislative agenda and are hoping that many of the plans will receive partisan support.
One of the major issues on the agenda is the plight of the Gary Community School Corporation. Brown said finding a workable solution to save the Gary schools should be a top priority.
Finding that solution has been a little harder now that the delegation will be dealing with the new head of the state’s Department of Education. Democrat Glenda Ritz, who was seen as an ally of the Gary schools, lost her bid for re-election to Republican Jennifer McCormick. During her campaign, McCormick struck a purely partisan note maintaining that she could work better with a Republican legislature.
Newly-elected State Senator Eddie Melton will no doubt be leading the coalition to work with state officials in resolving the current crisis. Prior to being elected, Melton served on the Indiana State Board of Education and will play a major role in crafting the plan.
“I see my role as being a voice downstate to articulate arrive at the state where we are and the need to get on the right track and partnering with local stakeholders to create a district to accommodate the students and help to revive the district,” said Melton.