Holcomb's Surprise Victory And The Road Ahead

Nov 9, 2016

 

Republican Eric Holcomb scored what some saw as a surprise victory in the Indiana governor’s race. He defeated Democrat John Gregg, who’s now lost his second consecutive gubernatorial bid.

Republicans swept statewide races and at the Indiana GOP election night party, the energy kept building as victory after victory came in – culminating when Lt. Governor-elect Suzanne Crouch stepped to the podium.

“I am proud to be a Republican! Woo!” Crouch said, cheering.

Governor-elect Holcomb took the microphone soon after.

“Well race fans, we just captured the checkered flag!” Holcomb said.

Longtime friends and supporters watched, some with tears in their eyes, as Holcomb pledged to build on the work of the last two governors – both of whom he worked for.

“Mitch Daniels built a foundation. Mike Pence added a couple stories,” Holcomb said. “And Suzanne Crouch and I are going to add story after story after story as we take Indiana to the next level.”

At the Indiana Democratic Party’s election night headquarters, there were tears of a different sort. The mood felt better suited to a funeral than a party as Democrat John Gregg greeted the crowd.

This was not the speech I planned on giving,” Gregg said.

Gregg urged his supporters to come together and to heal as he tried to buoy their spirits.

“So it’s important that while many of you are saying ‘How can we ever win?’ Democrats, we can win; we will win,” Gregg said. “[View this] as a beginning, not as an end. View this as a time for us to reenergize our party but to embrace our state and go forward together.”

Democrats’ pessimism, even hopelessness is understandable, says Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics director Andrew Downs.

“This really is a good time to be a Republican and Democrats just didn’t have the kind of turnout that they needed,” Downs says.

Downs adds, moving forward, Democrats should begin building a deeper political bench of candidates statewide.

“And that means convincing people to run for township boards and city councils and local races like that and let them get a term or two under their belt before they attempt to do something a little bit higher up in terms of state government,” he says.

For Republicans, Downs says they should guard against overreach, as they hold all statewide offices and supermajorities in both the state House and Senate.

House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath says his caucus will be keeping an eye out for that overreach.

“In this election, for this two-year period, they got most of what they wanted. And now it’s their responsibility to deliver on their promises,” Pelath says. “And we’ll stand ready to point out if they’re delivering on their promises or not.”

Holcomb, the day after his victory, was quick to pledge to seek Democrats’ input.

“I meant it last night when I said that no one’s opinion will be pushed aside. I seek input from whatever political jersey you wear. I’m seeking your input and if you have a good idea we want to incorporate it,” Holcomb says.

House Speaker Brian Bosma echoes the same sentiment.

“A third, unprecedented cycle of a supermajority brings with it even added responsibility to be inclusive of the minority, to be transparent to the public,” Bosma says.

As for his working relationship with Holcomb, Bosma notes he expects it to be positive, having worked closely with Holcomb during the Daniels administration.

“Eric Holcomb is his own man, too; he has his own style. It’s less combative than Mitch’s was,” Bosma says. “Mitch’s was … in a positive way, Mitch got in your face and told you what you needed to know. Eric is more collegial than that.”

Holcomb says he plans to be very involved in the legislative process, having already spoken to both House and Senate leaders the morning after the election. And that job starts soon – the legislative session and Holcomb’s inauguration are only a couple months away.