Home again: Pence says Hoosier state still a priority

In his first official return to his hometown since being named the Republican vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said his top priority remains serving the people of Indiana, despite spending most of his time on the national campaign trail.

Pence, his wife, Karen, and Indiana Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb made three joint appearances at Columbus businesses early Saturday afternoon.

Saturday’s visit was the first time Pence had returned to Columbus since his stop at the Bartholomew County 4-H fair in July before he had been named Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s running mate. The governor also campaigned in his hometown in May and June when he was still in the midst of his re-election campaign.

The Republican governor was greeted by a round of applause when he arrived at his first stop of the day — the Upland Columbus Pump House, where an audience of about 40 people, including Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop, city council president Frank Jerome and state Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, were waiting for him.

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Bartholomew County Republican Party Chairwoman Barb Hackman was among the first people to welcome the governor into the restaurant when they arrived at about 11 a.m. Hackman said she had the opportunity to speak with Pence before he began meeting with other residents, and she told him she was looking forward to attending his inauguration as vice president in January.

Local real estate developer Tony Moravec, a longtime Pence supporter and campaign contributor who oversaw the recent renovation of the former Columbus Pump House into an Upland Brewing Co. restaurant, said the trio’s visit to Columbus came about as a way of allowing Holcomb and Moravec to meet.

Moravec had contributed to both of Pence’s gubernatorial campaigns, but the governor was required to return the money after he dropped out of the race to run in the national presidential campaign.

Holcomb was then selected as Indiana’s new Republican gubernatorial candidate, so Moravec said he wanted the opportunity to meet with the lieutenant governor at his restaurant on Saturday to discuss possible contributions to his new campaign for the governor’s office.

After their initial meeting, Moravec said he thought Holcomb was a well-rounded individual who, like Pence, could lead the state down a path of stability.

Pence tried to keep the focus on his lieutenant governor as he met with local elected officials and other residents at three local businesses on Saturday.

In addition to the Pump House, Pence and Holcomb also made a stop at the downtown Saturday farmers market, where the governor and his wife opted to buy a few ears of sweet corn from the Hackman Farms booth.

The political trio then headed over to Joe Willy’s restaurant, where local residents Bryce and Alicia Utt and their 4-year-old son, Alex, decided to order dessert so that they would be able to stay at the restaurant long enough to see Pence. The Utts’ plan worked because Pence stopped by their table to pose for pictures and talk to Alex about his burgeoning youth soccer career.

Although Saturday’s trip was about garnering support for Holcomb’s campaign here in Indiana, many residents used Pence’s return to his hometown as an opportunity to discuss the presidential campaign.

Among those people were Ron Speer, Columbus, and his grandson, Colton, who stopped by the Upland Columbus Pump House to encourage the governor in his race for the White House.

Speer said he wanted to thank Pence for staying true to his Christian values and for being committed to the truth in a race he said has been marred by untruths.

Moravec said he also appreciated Pence’s approach to the presidential campaign, especially his calm demeanor that balances Trump’s bold approach to politics.

That approach often leads to controversy for the Trump campaign, but Pence said the real estate mogul has connected with the frustrations of the American people in a way that no candidate has done since Ronald Reagan. Because of that connection, the governor said his time on the campaign trail has showed him that many people across the country are enthusiastic about the prospect of a Trump-Pence White House.

In addition to discussions about contributions to Holcomb’s campaign, Moravec said Pence also invited him to a Trump-Pence event in Evansville on Monday, where known Hoosier Republican supporters will discuss their contribution plans for the national election. Moravec said he was going to make an effort to attend that event.

As he attempts to balance his roles as Indiana governor, a vice presidential nominee and a supporter of Holcomb’s gubernatorial campaign, Pence said he is constantly connected with what’s going on back home in Indiana while he is out on the campaign trail with Trump.

“It’s all just a matter of keeping first things first,” Pence said. “My job as governor is job one.”

For his part, Holcomb said he was honored that Pence took time on Saturday to support him, especially as the lieutenant governor faces a race that he described as actually more of a sprint because of his late start.

The lieutenant governor said his visit with the people of Columbus fired him up for the rest of his campaign as he met with Hoosiers encouraging him to continue leading Indiana down its current path. The state has flourished under the leadership of Pence and former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, Holcomb said, so he wants to continue leading the state with the same conservative principles.

“Hoosiers really want to make sure that Indiana is continuing to move forward,” he said.

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“My job as governor is job one,” – Indiana Gov. and Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence

“Hoosiers really want to make sure Indiana continues to move forward,” Indiana Lt. Gov. and Republican gubernatorial nominee Eric Holcomb