Needless to say, I didn't get a call from the Star to contribute. So I thought I would take this forum to offer my own advice to the incoming governor.
|Gov.-Elect Mike Pence (R-Indiana)|
*49.7. Never forget that number. That is the percent of the vote you received in the last election. While in a three way race that constituted a plurality of the vote, it also represents work that has to be done before the next election. Being a political animal, I view every issue in terms of their political impact down the road. Perhaps that is cynical and wrong, but that is who I am. The work that needs to be done before the next election is to govern in such a way that conservative values are promoted while adding substantially to that 49.7%. The electorate should be viewed as a series of pieces. The key is to put together pieces that reflect a majority of the votes in the next election.
*Chart a New Course for Indiana. Governor Daniels succeeded as a pro-business, fiscally conservative Republican. You are a different person, governing in a different time, facing different challenges. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that your template for success will be the same as Governor Daniels'.
Here's what I would suggest. Be a populist governor, someone who reaches out to working men and women as Reagan did so successfully. Key to that strategy should be fighting for taxpayers by going after corporate welfare that has grown substantially in government, particularly among municipalities. (That is not even to mention Washington's bailout of Wall Street which gave rise to populist tea party politics.) You should point out that corporate welfare can be every bit as addictive and counterproductive as regular welfare.
Further, take the lead on demanding transparency in state (and local) government. Being formerly a member of the media, you know the importance of sunshine in government in combating corruption and waste. Strengthen the Public Access Counselor's Office and bring under its umbrella transparency issues, such as putting government documents on the Internet for everyone to see.
Don't be afraid to reorganize state government to find more efficient ways to operate. Fight for the elimination of unneeded state agencies, even ones that don't have a substantial impact on the bottom line. They are important symbols of your stand for the taxpayers.
Finally, fight for stronger ethics laws at both the state and local level. For example, we don't have a local revolving door law. It is nothing for top officials in the administration of the Indianapolis Mayor's Office to leave and immediately begin working for a company that had just received a big privatization contract from the Mayor's Office. It has happened under both Democratic and Republican administrations.
*Show your sense of humor and personality. During the election campaign, I read a quote from your opponent John Gregg in which he declared he was the one with the mustache and the sense of humor. What utter nonsense. The Mike Pence I remember from law school was widely known not only as an unabashed conservative, but perhaps more importantly for having a great sense of humor and a warm, engaging personality. I don't think people see enough of that side of you. When they don't see the warm human side, liberals, being by nature closed-minded, just assume someone exposing conservative views has to be an evil, humorless, cold-hearted person. That is certainly not who you are.
*Work with Democrats. Remember that even our liberal and Democratic friends are occasionally right on issues. Find the issues you can work with them and assemble coalitions. Reach out to them. Even, dare I say, be friends with them. When Democrats are voting against you in the General Assembly, you want them to be voting against someone they view as a friend. That makes it all the harder to oppose your agenda. That is something Ronald Reagan excelled at while President, but many Republicans have forgotten along the way.
*Social issues. Don't let media types convince you otherwise, social issues are an essential part of the Republican coalition. But the "how" these issues are addressed are very important. First, lead with the economic conservative issues because they are a bigger part of your coalition. As far as social issues, don't let your opponents make the issue of abortion be about the exceptions. The abortion issue for decades been a winning issue for Republicans at the polls. But Democrats seem to have have figured out that if they can make the abortion issue be about the exceptions, they can turn those numbers around. On the same sex marriage issue, well that's a tough one. Looking at it straight from a political standpoint, I've seen the dramatic, generational move in the polling numbers. Same sex marriage seem inevitable. I don't know that you want to sacrifice your career by possibly being on the wrong side of a historic shift in public opinion. At the very least, it would seem wise to leave the issue of the amendment up to the legislature and then the voters as far as ratification.
*Get a Dog. Okay, you probably already have a dog. But I use that phrase to highlight advice President Harry Truman once offered "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." His point was that upon assuming the Presidency, he had all kinds of people acting as if they were his friends, when in fact they were just people interested in utilizing their access to him to enrich themselves. I have a term for those people - "profiteers." The use of Truman's saying does not mean to suggest you shouldn't trust your wife and children or you don't trust people who come to your administration having served you loyally while in Congress. But be aware that by moving from the legislative to the executive you have enormous new power to hand out contracts and otherwise make people wealthy. Some people who suddenly want to be friends with a Governor Pence are more interested in putting money in their pockets than doing what is in your best interest.
*"Let me be brutally frank". That was a phrase one of your law school classmates used to say all the time. Following that statement would come a flow of unabashed honesty that was often not be what the recipient of those remarks wanted to hear. That is what you need. As your inner circle grows, you need to insist on members of that circle speaking their mind and being "brutally frank" with you. Advisers offering brutally honest advice because they want you to succeed in the long term are your friends. Yes men and women telling you what you want to hear are not your friends.
Just my two cents. Best of luck to Governor-Elect Pence in 2013 and beyond.