While always introduced as the Indiana governor and GOP vice presidential candidate, Gregory Pence says most Americans now talk about his brother in an entirely different way these days.
“They want to talk more about the celebrity than the issues,” Gregory Pence said as more than 70 people were arriving late Tuesday morning outside his Exit 76 Antique Mall in Edinburgh for a mini Trump-Pence rally featuring Trump-Pence Indiana campaign chairman Rex Early, vice chair Tony Samuel and state director Suzie Jaworowski.
That’s frustrating for Mike Pence, the Columbus native who has been attempting to tell supporters what a Donald Trump administration would do during its first 100 days, his brother said. But the national crowds, as well as the media, don’t seem interested in such details, Gregory Pence said.
“They are interested in the buzz they saw on TV today,” Gregory Pence said. “Drama is what people are most interested in.”
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As 16 student volunteers from Sandy Creek Christian Academy in Seymour were putting up long rows of Trump-Pence yard signs along Executive Drive near the antique mall, Gregory Pence said things were much different during his brother’s earlier days in politics.
When Mike Pence was an Indiana congressman from 2001 through 2012, most people wanted to politely discuss national issues, Gregory Pence said.
After he was elected governor and inaugurated in January 2013, people were still interested in his policies — either in a positive or negative way, depending on their political affiliation, the governor’s brother said.
“There’s none of that now,” Gregory Pence said, “All anyone asks is ‘What’s it like?’ It is just so other-worldly to most people that a guy from Columbus, Indiana, is running for vice president.”
After Trump chose Mike Pence to be his running mate in July, the entire family found itself immersed one way or the other in the sometime surreal world of celebrity, other family members confirmed.
For Gregory’s wife and business partner, Denise Pence, the strangest moment came as she was serving as one of 57 Indiana delegates to the National Republican Convention in Cleveland in July.
“When I was standing on the floor, casting my vote for Mike Pence for vice president, I was very emotional,” Denise Pence said. “And when I’m told to expect hundreds at a rally — but thousands show up — that was also surreal.”
And after returning to their Columbus home, Denise Pence said she finds much of her time taken up by phone calls from old high school classmates she hasn’t heard from in decades, she said.
For Mike Pence’s mother, Nancy Pence Fritsch, also of Columbus, the experience of having her son on the GOP presidential ticket is new, unusual, and — as she calls it — “a blessing.”
“Suddenly, my world became smaller,” said Fritsch, who also attended Tuesday’s event near Edinburgh Premium Outlets. “That means my life now encompasses so many more people, philosophies and policies.”
The one-time Chicago resident said her son’s passion for Republican politics may have been rooted in her own disgust of the administration of Democrat Richard J. Daley, who was mayor of Chicago from 1955-76.
The sight of watching her four sons, including Mike and Gregory, riding wagons in a 1964 campaign parade for GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was going through her mind during the event in Edinburgh, she said.
Whle Fritsch and Denise Pence may be enjoying the ride, Gregory Pence said he doesn’t have the political passion expressed by his mother, brother and wife.
As a result, the governor’s brother just wants what he describes as “an emotional roller-coaster” to be over, he said.
For Gregory Pence, the end of the campaign will mean he will no longer have to:
Wear a hat while attending Indianapolis Colts football games to prevent himself from being recognized.
Be pushed aside by a Secret Service agent when he and his brother are approached by a stranger.
Be dragged into political discussions by people he has just met.
Best of all, Gregory Pence says he will no longer have to worry about the well-being of his son, John Pence, who is working 16-hour-plus days with the campaign at Trump Tower in New York.
Since she hasn’t heard from her son, Mike, in almost two weeks, Fritsch expressed similar concerns for the governor’s well-being.
“I’m sure he’s very tired,” she said. “But he’s in there for the long haul, and he’s going to give it his all till the final day.”
Pride seeped into Fritsch’s final comment about her candidate son.
“Michael has always aspired to do something great for our country, and I know he’ll do a phenomenal job,” Fritsch said.