Eric Holcomb to be named running mate for Gov. Pence, source says

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Eric Holcomb

By Tony Cook and Chelsea Schneider, IndyStar

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 8, 2016)– Gov. Mike Pence is expected to name Eric Holcomb as his running mate during a press conference tomorrow, according to our partners at IndyStar, who spoke with a Statehouse source familiar with the plan.

Holcomb, who withdrew from Indiana’s U.S. Senate race Monday, would replace Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, who the Pence administration announced in December is seeking a job as president of Ivy Tech Community College.

Holcomb, who had been one of three Republican candidates vying to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, is a one-time Indiana Republican Party chairman and has been a top aide to Coats and former Gov. Mitch Daniels. He would bring a strong ground game to the governor’s re-election bid and provide him with a political attack dog in what is expected to be a tight race with Democrat John Gregg.

Neither Pence nor Holcomb would confirm the plans on Monday. A spokesman for the governor did not return messages and Holcomb’s campaign released only a two-paragraph statement several hours after he filed paperwork with the Indiana Secretary of State to end his campaign.

“Today I withdrew my name as a candidate for the United States Senate as Janet and I believe we have been called to serve our beloved state in a different capacity,” Holcomb said in the statement, adding that he “looks forward to announcing soon how I will serve our state in the years to come.”

Political insiders quickly seized upon those comments as evidence that Pence planned to nominate Holcomb for the lieutenant governor position.

“Sure looks like Holcomb might be nominated to serve as Lt. Governor,” state Rep. David Ober, R-Albion, said on Twitter.

Still unclear is the timing of Ellspermann’s anticipated resignation, which has become a delicate matter for the Pence administration.

Ivy Tech’s trustees, who are appointed by the governor, are conducting a national search for a new president and have said they won’t make a final decision until this summer. Lawmakers, however, have said they prefer to confirm a new lieutenant governor before the legislative session ends March 14. Otherwise, they would have to reconvene for a special session.

Ellspermann’s spokesman said he didn’t have any additional information on the timing of any potential resignation announcement.

Holcomb’s exit from the Senate race leaves U.S. Reps. Todd Young and Marlin Stutzman to duke it out in the May primary. The winner will face former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, the sole Democrat in the race.

Holcomb had hoped to tap into an extensive grassroots network from his years as Indiana Republican Party Chairman and as a top aide to Coats and former Gov. Mitch Daniels.

But he struggled to keep up with Young and Stutzman in fundraising. Holcomb had only $227,515 in campaign money in the bank at the end of the year, compared to $2.6 million for Young and $1.1 million for Stutzman.

Holcomb’s donors included many who had worked for Daniels.

Andy Downs, a political science professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, said a lack of resources likely played a key role in Holcomb’s decision.

This is a statewide primary,” he said. “Even if we have a low turnout — let’s say that’s a million people — you still have to have some way you’re communicating with them.”

Young’s supporters have urged Holcomb to drop out of the race for months, fearing he would peel away establishment GOP voters who would otherwise vote for Young.

In a statement Monday, Young praised Holcomb’s willingness to tackle big problems and offer solution.

“Competing with my friend Eric has made me a better candidate,” he said. “Eric’s voice is an important one and I know he will continue to play a leading role in our state and our party for many years to come.”

This story originally appeared on IndyStar.com.

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