INDIANAPOLIS – After spending eight hours last weekend hunkered down in his home office complete with strewn paper and poster boards, Gov.-elect Mike Pence is ready to take his oath and give his inaugural address to about 1,500 Hoosiers on Monday.
His first major speech as Indiana’s 50th governor should take less than 15 minutes, though he concedes keeping it short is easier said than done. He is keeping the theme close to the vest, though he generally said it will focus on Indiana seizing an important moment in its history to become great.
Pence, a six-term congressman who is in the executive branch for the first time, said he wrote the first draft of the speech and then accepted ideas from a few close friends in a collaborative effort.
In addition to planning his inauguration, the two months between his election and taking office has been a whirlwind of interviewing and hiring Cabinet members and senior staff members, finishing congressional duties in D.C. and finding some time for family.
I really think that balance is very important to anyone’s effectiveness, Pence said. He and first lady Karen Pence slipped away for a few days in Florida, and then the whole family – including three children – took a road trip to Michigan for some skiing.
Now he’s ready to govern.
By noon Monday – the ceremony starts at 11 a.m. outside the Statehouse – he will trade in his home bunker and tiny Statehouse cubby that has been on loan for Room 206, a well-appointed office with the charm of a decorative marble fireplace, large meeting space and historic art adorning the walls.
Pence is the first governor to have his inauguration outside since Gov. Frank O’Bannon did it in 1997. O’Bannon was expecting thousands of fourth-graders that day but bitter cold in the single digits kept all but 3,000 adults and children away.
That experience is remembered to this day by political insiders, and Pence admits he has been watching the weather forecast fairly frequently, even updating reporters on the expected temperature at a news conference last week.
At last check, the forecast was for partly cloudy with a high of 32 and a 20 percent chance of rain.
Pence will sit on a chair belonging to the ninth U.S. President, William Henry Harrison, while swearing his oath on the Bible used by Harrison’s grandson, Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd U.S. president. Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and Attorney General Greg Zoeller also will take the oath of office.
After the ceremony, Pence said his first task as governor will be a meeting with the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate to talk about priorities. Then comes a meeting with his new economic development team.
The next day, his team will submit his first proposed budget, and his legislative agenda will take shape after that.
Pence ran on a road map of proposals – the most significant of which is cutting Indiana’s income tax. But other than the tax cut, he is being secretive about his legislative agenda. Bits and pieces are leaking out, such as a tort reform bill that will make losers in civil litigation pay attorney fees, an idea not on the campaign road map.
In terms of the road map itself, I think we had about 50 different proposals that we believe were supportive of the goals we articulated, he said. We’re obviously open to other ideas that will advance the goal of strengthening Indiana’s economy, schools and family. Stay tuned.
The inauguration is expected to draw about 1,500 people, much lower than Gov. Mitch Daniels’ first inauguration in 2005, when 8,000 Hoosiers flocked to the Indiana State Fairgrounds. That was also the first time Republicans had controlled the governor’s office in 16 years.