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Filling a Ballot Vacancy

Andrew Downs
Purdue University Fort Wayne

On July 26th, the 24 members of the Republican State Committee met in a caucus to fill the ballot vacancy created by Governor Mike Pence accepting the Republican nomination for vice president.  The 22 voting members* decided that Eric Holcomb is the best candidate to replace Pence. 

Based on media accounts, there was intense campaigning by the candidates and their supporters.  For those who get tired of all of the mail, commercials, and other voter contact that they receive during an election, imagine what it must be like when you are one of 22 voters and all of the candidates know how to contact you.  To make matters worse (or better depending on your perspective), you are at a convention with the candidates and most of the other voters.  

There is no doubt that the committee members considered many factors when making their decision, but there are three that likely played a larger role than others.  Is the candidate aligned with the party platform?  Can the candidate run and win a statewide campaign?  Would the candidate make a good governor? 

Platform alignment may have been the easiest factor to consider.  While people can argue about whether or not the candidates were too moderate or conservative, it would be difficult to argue that they were not aligned with the party platform.  While this may have easy to deal with, it still had to be considered. 

Being able to run and win a statewide campaign was a more challenging factor.  Evaluating this factor meant considering past performance and potential.  No doubt the committee members were asking several questions.  Which candidates had previous electoral success and at what level did they have that success?  Which candidates had good name recognition throughout the state already?  Which candidates had a biography that would resonate with the voters?  Which candidates could put together a statewide campaign in a short period of time?  Which candidates could raise enough money?  Which candidates could counter the Gregg campaign the best?  On what issues would each candidate campaign?   

The most difficult factor may have been who would perform the best as governor.  Being a governor is a unique job.  The committee members had to weigh which previous experience and performance was the best indicator of future performance.  How important is it to have held statewide executive office?  How do you compare legislative successes with constituent services?  Who has relationships with current (and likely future) office holders and department and agency leaders? 

These, and many other, factors were considered by the committee members.  The committee members probably looked to previous election results, polls done by and for the candidates, votes and quotes from the candidates, personal conversations with the candidates, and input from others.  After all of that, they still had to decide how to weigh all of that information and any unquantifiable factors.  This was not an easy task for the committee members. 

Now that we know who the Republican nominee for governor will be, we can begin to focus on the other caucuses to fill the vacancies caused by Pence withdrawing from the gubernatorial race. 

Sometimes when political parties are filling vacancies, they are looking for people who are willing to take a longshot and “take one for the team.”  That is not the case with the upcoming caucuses.  These remaining vacancies are seats the Republicans can (maybe even should) win.  Instead of finding a warm body, the caucus members will look to many of the same factors the state committee members used when deciding who should fill the vacancy created by Pence.

* The definitions of members (voting and non-voting) can be found in Chapter 6 of the Rules of the Indiana Republican State Committee

Andrew Downs is Director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at IPFW.

Opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the staff, management or board of Northeast Indiana Public Radio. If you want to join the conversation, head over to our Facebook page and comment on the post featuring this column.