Rep. Mike Pence (R)
Indiana 6th District
Muncie, Ind., became famous as the “Middletown” where sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd lived and did research for their report in 1924 and 1925. Another team of sociologists investigated Muncie and reported on it in 1976 and 1978. The Lynds were attracted to Muncie because it was typical of “every small city from Maine to California,” as Life magazine put it. But it wasn’t exactly. Muncie was a factory town in a country still almost 50% rural at that time, and it was almost entirely Protestant and Northern in a country that was one-quarter Catholic and one-third Southern. Muncie was more typical in that it was culturally homogeneous but economically riven. In the 1920s, when General Motors opened a plant in Muncie, the city celebrated its common values and was loath to admit its economic disparities; Chevrolet took over the plant in 1935. In the 1930s, those differences were exposed when Muncie, like much of the industrial Midwest, was unionized, a process that sometimes led to violent clashes. Workers who were joining CIO unions and voting for Democrats fiercely opposed the business elite—local bankers, merchants, GM executives, and the Ball family’s glass company. Partisan politics took on the sharp, bitter tone of a struggle for wealth between two rival classes whose claims seemed irreconcilable. Echoes of such class-warfare politics grow louder at times of economic distress, such as when Ball moved its headquarters to Colorado in 1998. When in 2006 Muncie was ranked ninth nationwide in poverty rates among cities its size or larger, local officials downplayed the situation as not unexpected in a small city with a large student population. In March 2006, GM closed its manual transmission plant, which had opened in 1935 and once employed 3,000 workers. But that loss was tempered by Honda’s decision to build a car assembly plant on farmland in Greensburg, about 60 miles south of Muncie. After that facility opened in November 2008 with about 2,000 workers, Honda announced that the plant would produce the world’s only passenger vehicles powered by compressed natural gas, the Civic GX.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
This area’s relative prosperity, based on high-skill manufacturing, has engendered something like a political consensus for tax cuts, tight budgets, and traditional cultural values, with strong support for candidates of either party who agree. Basketball is the civic religion here: Indiana has nine of the nation’s 10 largest high school gyms. The Fieldhouse, in New Castle near the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, is No. 1 in size. Also noteworthy is Tom Raper Inc. in Richmond, the nation’s largest RV dealer.
The 6th Congressional District of Indiana covers most of the east-central part of the state. It includes Muncie and Anderson in the north as well as Richmond, founded by a major branch of American Quakers and home to their Earlham College. In the north and south are suburban fringes of Fort Wayne and Cincinnati. The 6th is solidly Republican in presidential politics but has been a swing district in some state races. Barack Obama took Delaware County, which includes Muncie, 57%-42%, but John McCain won the district 52%-46%.
Rep. Mike Pence (R)
Elected: 2000, 5th term.
Born: June 7, 1959, Columbus .
Education: Hanover Col., B.A. 1981, IN U., J.D. 1986.
Family: Married (Karen); 3 children.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1986-91; Pres., IN Policy Review Fndt., 1991-93; Radio broadcaster, Network Indiana, 1992-99; Host, pub. affairs TV, UPN-23, 1995-99.
The congressman from the 6th District is Mike Pence, a Republican first elected in 2000. He grew up in Columbus, Ind., as a John F. Kennedy-admiring Catholic, but he graduated from Hanover College as a Republican evangelical Christian. He got his law degree from Indiana University, and then went into practice. Starting before he was 30, he ran as the Republican nominee for a U.S. House seat in 1988 and 1990 against longtime Democratic Rep. Philip Sharp, and then wrote “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” an article in which he apologized for running negative ads. He was president of the conservative Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a think tank based in Fort Wayne, and then in 1994 began broadcasting “The Mike Pence Show,” a conservative talk-radio program that was syndicated statewide. When the 6th District seat was vacated in 2000 by Republican Rep. David McIntosh, who left to challenge Democratic Gov. Frank O’Bannon, Pence decided to resume his quest for Congress. Pence prevailed in a six-candidate Republican primary, and then faced Democrat Robert Rock, an Anderson, Ind., lawyer and the son of former Lt. Gov. Robert Rock. Also in the contest was Bill Frazier, a former Republican state senator and four-time loser against Sharp who ran as an independent after the primary. All three candidates opposed abortion rights and gun control, and supported increased military spending. Frazier tried to tap into populist sentiment. Rock, a former marine, attacked Pence for not serving in the military, although Pence was only 13 when the draft was abolished and U.S. troops left Vietnam. Rock called for tax cuts for middle-income families, while Pence wanted across-the-board tax cuts and reform of Medicare financing. Pence got 51% of the vote to 39% for Rock and 9% for Frazier. He has since won re-election easily.
|Mike Pence (R)||180,608||(64%)||($1,575,412)|
|Barry Welsh (D)||94,265||(33%)||($24,935)|
|George Holland (Lib)||7,539||(3%)|
|Mike Pence (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (60%), 2004 (67%), 2002 (64%), 2000 (51%)
Pence quickly established himself as one of the House’s more outspoken conservatives. He antagonized the business community by abandoning the bankruptcy bill in 2005 because he objected to a provision on abortion. As the only House member to become a plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, Pence said that Arizona Republican McCain was “so deep in bed with the Democrats that his feet are coming out of the bottom of the sheets.” He was one of 33 House Republicans to vote against President Bush’s signature No Child Left Behind public schools bill in 2001, and one of just 25 to oppose the Republicans’ Medicare prescription drug bill in 2003, calling it too costly. He claimed vindication when budget estimates showed rising costs in the program, though they ultimately leveled off. He did vote for the big-spending farm bill in 2002, conceding, “I don’t have clean hands,” and later voiced regret about his vote. With Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, he sponsored a federal shield bill to protect journalists. The House passed the measure in October 2007. “As a conservative who believes in limited government, I believe the only check on government in real time is the freedom of the press,” he told the House. He was the first House member to install a radio studio in his office.
In 2005, Pence became chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of the most conservative members of the House, and pushed to attract greater attention to the party’s conservative message. “We win as conservatives when we communicate,” Pence said. “If you can’t communicate, you can’t govern.” Articulate, smart, and often charming, Pence gets frequent invitations to appear on cable television talk shows. He calls himself “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.” Under his stewardship, the committee emphasized controlling federal spending. Pence’s group worked with Majority Whip Roy Blunt and Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle to impose procedural roadblocks on appropriations bills that exceeded annual spending limits. Although some House insiders dismissed the outcome as a “fig leaf,” Pence contended that the changes toughened budget discipline. He has shown skill and good timing in making political moves. When Majority Leader Tom DeLay in September 2005 said that it would be difficult to offset the costs of cleaning up the damage from Hurricane Katrina because Republicans had already cut most of the waste in government, Pence held a televised press conference to document $24 billion in possible spending cuts. GOP leaders were miffed at the stunt, but the conservative publication Human Events named Pence its “Man of the Year” in 2005.
In 2006, Pence’s career took some unexpected twists. On immigration, he teamed with Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas on what they hoped would be a compromise bill to break the deadlock between the hard-line approach of House Republicans and the bipartisan proposal in the Senate. Their plan called for strengthening security along the border with Mexico and for sending illegal immigrants home, although it also permitted most of them to return and become eligible for citizenship. He won an audience with President Bush, but conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly called the proposal “a sick joke.” The Pence-Hutchison plan went nowhere. Pence hoped that his activism with the RSC would help him land a meaty post in the GOP leadership. After Republicans suffered big losses in November 2006, Pence challenged Minority Leader John Boehner for the party’s top job in the House. “We didn’t just lose our majority,” Pence said of the election outcome. “I believe we lost our way.” But Boehner, who had spent less than a year as majority leader before the election, distanced himself from former Speaker Dennis Hastert and his team, and embraced conservative principles, including a leaner budget and entitlement reforms. Pence fared poorly in the showdown, winning just 27 votes to Boehner’s 168.
In the minority, Pence served as the ranking Republican on the Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee. During an April 2008 visit to Iraq, he drew flak back home after saying that the Baghdad market was like “a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime.” Pence conceded that his word choice was not ideal. On domestic issues, he was an outspoken critic of the government bailout of the financial markets. “Congress should act, but it must do the right thing, not just something,” he said. “Economic freedom means the freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail.” He worked on an alternative with loan guarantees, rather than outright grants. He was a leader of the spontaneous move by House Republicans to keep the chamber open in August after Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a recess without first allowing a vote on a bill to step up oil exploration as a response to soaring gas prices. With enthusiastic support from Boehner, Pence in November 2008 was elected without opposition as chairman of the Republican Conference, the third-ranking minority leadership post. He took on assignments as a party spokesman and as the liaison to party conservatives. He is the first Hoosier in the House leadership since Democratic Whip John Brademas in the late 1970s.
Some conservative groups had hoped that Pence would be McCain’s choice as running mate in 2008. Back home, some speculate that he might run for a Senate seat if one opens in the next few years.