INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Former Indiana Republican chairman Eric Holcomb was sworn in Thursday as the state’s new lieutenant governor, completing a rare midterm transition for the position.
Holcomb took the oath of office during a Statehouse ceremony a few hours after the Indiana House and Senate confirmed his nomination by Gov. Mike Pence — and a day after Sue Ellspermann resignation took effect.
Holcomb spoke for about five minutes after taking the oath, saying he was honored to be selected.
“Gov. Pence offered me job I never sought,” he said. “… I join you, eagerly, to create and build an even better Indiana.”
Holcomb will be Pence’s running mate for an expected tough re-election campaign this year against Democratic candidate John Gregg, whom Pence narrowly defeated in 2012.
The Senate voted 50-0 shortly after the House voted 91-3 to approve Gov. Mike Pence’s pick following about 15 minutes of total discussion.
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma cited Holcomb’s experience as a top aide to former GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels in asking House members to support the nomination.
“I am quite confident he is well equipped to step into the role of lieutenant governor for our state,” Bosma said.
Ellspermann’s resignation has been anticipated since December, when Pence suggested she would be an “ideal” candidate to become the new president of Ivy Tech Community College’s statewide system. Ellspermann has said she will apply for the position.
Senate Democratic leader Tim Lanane of Anderson said he would go along with Pence’s pick, although he believed the midterm transition was unnecessary.
“There are questions as to why this is all happening, especially with only months to go in the remainder of this term and with an election looming out there,” Lanane said.
Pence and Ellspermann have denied any rift between them, though their differences were highlighted in September when Ellspermann said she supported civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The party has been divided over the issue since the backlash against the religious objections law that the Republican-led Legislature passed last year, before watering it down under heavy criticism from big business. Pence has said he favors religious freedoms over protections for anyone who has been declined service, fired from a job or denied housing due to sexual orientation or gender identity.
But Holcomb has openly said he backed the governor’s stance and his experience as a top political operative could make him an effective attack dog for Pence during the upcoming election campaign.
The nomination by Pence took Holcomb from a nearly year-long U.S. Senate candidacy where Holcomb sought to replace GOP Sen. Dan Coats, who is retiring this year.
The only other time since the 1940s that a new lieutenant governor has been selected in the middle of a term was in 2003, when Democratic Gov. Joe Kernan nominated Kathy Davis for the position a few weeks after the death of Gov. Frank O’Bannon.
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