Indiana Democrats See Opportunity for Momentum With Lieutenant Governor Pick

After Republicans refused to nominate Mike Braun’s chosen running mate, Democrat Jennifer McCormick leverage her lieutenant governor pick to woo moderates.

INDIANAPOLIS—The office of lieutenant governor, an afterthought for many voters, has gained unexpected attention in Indiana’s 2024 gubernatorial contest, which has provided an opportunity for Democrats, who have not held the governor’s mansion in two decades, to gain momentum.

The possibility presented itself on June 15 when Republicans rebuffed the running mate choice made by gubernatorial nominee, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), at the party’s state convention.

Delegates instead chose a political outsider known for his conservative social views.

Party conventions usually honor the running mate selection of the top nominee.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jennifer McCormick used the opportunity to portray Mr. Braun as unable to lead his own party.

She then designated a moderate Democrat as her preferred running mate—a likely appeal to independent voters and moderate Republicans, whom Ms. McCormick believes are weary of culture wars and ready for a change in the state’s top office.

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Mr. Braun, a Harvard-educated businessman from the rural community of Jasper had designated Julie McGuire, a first-term member of the state House of Representatives, as his choice for lieutenant governor.

Former President Donald Trump, who had endorsed Mr. Braun’s candidacy, made a last-minute endorsement of Ms. McGuire on June 13, but that wasn’t enough to overcome the momentum built by Micah Beckwith, a pastor and podcaster who had mounted a yearlong campaign for the nomination.

Mr. Beckwith, who twice challenged Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) in primary contests, gained attention in 2022 as a member of the Hamilton East Public Library Board of Trustees.

There, he advocated for the adoption of a policy requiring the system’s two libraries to move materials depicting sexual nudity or conduct out of the teen sections and onto the adult shelves.

The policy was short-lived as the board reversed its decision in less than a year.

After Mr. Beckwith’s nomination, Mr. Braun emphasized his position at the top of the ticket.

“There’s no doubt about this, I’m in charge, and Micah is going to be someone that works with me. If he doesn’t, I think that means it will probably not be as fruitful,” Mr. Braun said.

Yet the lieutenant governor is elected by the people and holds a position with a great deal of policy and patronage authority according to Mike Wolf, acting director for the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue University.

“The lieutenant governor has a lot more power than people think,” Mr. Wolf told The Epoch Times. “The portfolio of controlling Agriculture and Rural Affairs, community development—these are big issues in the state of Indiana.”

By law, the lieutenant governor is the president of the Indiana Senate and becomes acting governor if the incumbent governor resigns, is impeached, becomes incapacitated, or dies in office.

The lieutenant governor also heads the state’s agricultural commission and chairs the offices of Community and Rural Affairs, Energy and Defense Development, Tourism Development, and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, and makes political appointments to positions within the state’s government.

Both Mr. Braun and Mr. Beckwith have made statements of unity following the convention.

After appearing at a Republican event in Hamilton County on June 19, Mr. Braun posted on social media: “Our party is unified and ready to win big for Hoosiers in November!”

Mr. Beckwith has said his intention in running for the office independent of the gubernatorial candidate’s choice was to give the people a greater voice in government.

“I am glad I have brought a new spotlight to the lieutenant governor’s office. I am ready to make a positive difference for Hoosiers. Go team Braun/Beckwith!” he wrote on June 19.

McCormick Picks Moderate Insider

Democrats have sought to portray Mr. Beckwith as an extremist whose views are out of sync with most Hoosiers and to tie those views to the man at the top of the ticket.

“Micah Beckwith’s candidacy, and his nomination as lieutenant governor, is just downright dangerous for Hoosiers,” Mike Schmuhl, chairman of the state’s Democrat party, said on June 18.

Ms. McCormick, a one-time Republican who served four years as the state’s superintendent of public instruction, named Terry Goodin as her choice for lieutenant governor.

Mr. Goodin served 20 years in the General Assembly and is a current Biden appointee as state director for rural development with the United States Department of Agriculture.

Mr. Goodin makes an ideal running mate for appealing to rural voters according to Laura Merrifield Wilson, associate professor of political science at the University of Indianapolis.

“Having someone like Goodin, who’s been pro-gun, is from rural Indiana, and, I think, represents that old-school Indiana Democrat … having that complement does help her in terms of adding to the ticket,” Ms. Wilson told The Epoch Times.

Ms. McCormick, who left the Republican Party in 2021, said she believes many Indiana voters think the state has become too restrictive on abortion access after the overturn of Roe v. Wade in 2022.

Currently, abortion is allowed in the state during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy in cases involving fatal fetal abnormalities, to preserve the life and physical health of the mother, and in cases of rape or incest.

“There are a lot of Hoosiers that are saying it went too far. It’s too extreme. We understand where Roe was. We were okay with Roe. This is way too extreme,” she said.

Ms. McCormick must now appeal to her own convention’s delegates to nominate her preferred running mate at the party’s convention next month.

That could prove challenging given that Mr. Goodin had previously voted for restrictions on abortion and against allowing same-sex marriages in the state.

However, Mr. Goodin told reporters on June 20 that his views have changed.

“I have moved forward in my beliefs,” Mr. Goodin said.

He referred to the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade as “an all-out assault on women’s personal freedoms and individual rights.”

And he said, “I can confirm this, love is love, and if two people want to affirm that love with marriage, then they should be able to do that in the great state of Indiana.”

Democrats, being in the minority, are likely to treat the nomination pragmatically and not risk a public disagreement over the choice, according to Mr. Wolf.

“Most likely, Democrats are thinking strategically here. Republicans are in a super majority with the luxury to be able to have these kinds of things pop up without, necessarily, much of a concern about what the electoral cost might be.”

Ms. Wilson likewise predicted Democrat unity around Ms. McCormick’s choice.

“If they see the governor’s office as an opportunity to win, the party needs to rally immediately,” she said.

The Indiana Democratic Party’s convention is set for July 13.

The Epoch Times requested comments from Mr. Braun, but didn’t receive a response by publication.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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