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Column: 2015 political campaign will be a dandy

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This is a notable election year because some important positions will be determined.

The race for Bartholomew County sheriff, for example, currently includes four Republicans trying to succeed outgoing Sheriff Mark Gorbett, who will step aside after serving the maximum two terms.

However, circle 2015.

That will be a whopper of a year politically.


For starters, it will include the Columbus city elections. That means races for mayor, City Council and clerk-treasurer.

I haven’t heard of anyone either formally or informally declaring their candidacy for any of these positions, but toward the end of this year it’s a good bet that some people will begin campaigning ahead of the spring 2015 primary elections.

What will make the city elections interesting is how the at-times strained relationship between Mayor Kristen Brown and the seven council members translates into the races.

It could mean some or all of them face challengers, whether in the primary or general election.

Letters to the editor have supported and scolded both the mayor and council since they took office in January 2012, notably pertaining to the city budget and the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department. Such letters are no indication of what will actually happen, but they demonstrate that residents have strong opinions and are not afraid to express them. They could do that with their votes, too.

The other big question that will be answered at some point in 2015 is whether

Gov. Mike Pence, a Columbus native, seeks the Republican nomination for president in 2016 or instead tries to win a second term as governor.

First he has to craft another two-year state budget during next year’s Indiana General Assembly, which begins in January and ends in April. Then the questions will come full force about which direction his political aspirations will go.

These aren’t entirely uncharted waters for Pence, in that his name was mentioned as a possible candidate for the 2012 presidential election. However, then-Congressman Pence chose to run for governor.

He’ll have a lot to weigh in the decision.

For starters, what kind of chance does he have to win the nomination or earn the presidency itself?

Pence has consistently had support from groups who want lower business-related taxes and favor socially conservative laws, such as making abortion illegal.

Also, he has successfully attracted support from big donors, such as David Koch, a billionaire industrialist who gave $200,000 to his gubernatorial campaign, and Bill Oesterle, co-founder of Angie’s List, who gave $100,000 to Pence’s run for governor.

Having the ability to tap the support of two important voting bases and elicit strong financial support would put Pence in a good starting point in the 2016 GOP presidential primary.

The question that could put those plans on hold, though, is: Does he have enough of a track record to show he can lead a country?

When decision time comes in 2015, Pence will have been governor of Indiana for less than three years. He’ll have crafted two two-year state budgets. Supporters of other candidates will say that’s not enough time to gauge whether his efforts have helped the state.

Presidents traditionally have been governors or U.S. senators, either in charge of an entire state or representing an entire state. Congressmen represent just a portion of a state’s population.

Depending on who else mounts a presidential campaign, Pence’s limited experience in charge of Indiana could be viewed negatively.

If he waits until the 2020 presidential election, though, he could lose his window of opportunity.

President Barack Obama cannot seek re-election in 2016 because of term limits. So, a new president will be chosen. Should Pence skip the 2016 cycle and a Republican wins the presidency, it’s practically unthinkable that Pence would challenge a sitting president in the 2020 election. That would push back his next opportunity to 2024.

Eight years would be a long time to wait.

It’s also plenty of time for new political stars to emerge.

Next year will be very interesting.

Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5639 or

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