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Columbus native Mike Pence will assume the duties of governor of Indiana on Monday — a role that several others with Columbus ties only dreamed about.
The inauguration of Pence as the state’s chief executive will mark the first time that anyone with direct ties to this city has gotten that far in state politics.
Not that there weren’t those who tried or were considered.
Arguably the closest any Columbus resident got to occupying the governor’s office was more than a century ago when Hugh Th. Miller — father of Columbus philanthropists J. Irwin Miller and Clementine Tangeman — served as lieutenant governor of the state from 1905 to 1909.
In more recent times, there have been those who tried for the top spot but failed.
Previous to Pence, the only Columbus resident to get on the gubernatorial ballot for the general election was businessman Kenn Gividen in 2004.
However, he ran on the Libertarian ticket and garnered only 31,664 votes in the general election compared with winner Mitch Daniels’ 1,302,912.
A more serious bid was mounted by former state Sen. Robert Garton, R-Columbus.
Garton, who as president pro tempore of the Indiana Senate was regarded as the second-most powerful person in the state, announced in August 1995 that he would seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination. However, his campaign never caught fire, and he withdrew before the primary election.
A number of Columbus residents either entertained the idea of running for governor or were mentioned as possibilities.
The aforementioned J. Irwin Miller was encouraged a number of times to run for governor.
He also was held out as an ideal presidential candidate, most notably by Esquire magazine, which carried his photo on the front page of the magazine in 1967 alongside the headline “This man ought to be the next president.”
Miller took a pass on both ventures.
Former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., who practiced law in Columbus in the 1950s and ’60s, enjoyed similar celebrity with a number of his fellow Democrats urging him to give up his House seat and run for governor. Others entertained loftier goals, describing him as presidential material.
His name also surfaced in speculation about presidential running mates and Cabinet appointments.
He stayed in the House of Representatives until his retirement in 1999.
Columbus businessman W. Calvert Brand also was considered gubernatorial material, particularly since he had served as a state representative and was state budget director in the Ed Whitcomb administration.
It was speculated that he might bid for his party’s nomination in 1972, but those plans were put aside when the highly popular Dr. Otis Bowen announced he would be running.
Several years later, Brand accepted an appointment as assistant secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Reagan administration.
After serving the last 12 years in Congress as Indiana’s 6th District representative, Pence will be sworn in Monday as the state’s 50th governor.
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