INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Republican Eric Holcomb was sworn-in Monday as Indiana’s new governor,
calling on the state to do more to those who “feel they’ve been left out”
despite a growing economy and low unemployment rate. “Despite our standing,
despite our ongoing momentum, we can’t afford to get complacent,” Holcomb
said during his inaugural address at the Indiana State Fair grounds. “Too
many are not participating in today’s economy or getting a quality education
- are struggling with the strangling grip of drugs.
"Too many Hoosier grads
explore opportunities outside our state line. Too many Hoosier businesses
are having trouble finding the skilled workers they need to grow,” he said.
highlighting the state’s successes while acknowledging its challenges
contrasted sharply with style of his predecessor. Mike Pence, who will be
sworn-in later this month as vice president, usually focused on the good
while putting a positive spin on the bad, channeling the sunny optimism of
Holcomb said the workforce
is aging. The state’s status as a manufacturing powerhouse faces fierce
competition from in a global economy. Even agriculture, woven into the
state’s mythology, has its obstacles to overcome because the average farmer
is 58-years-old, he said.
“Rather than ease
up, we must hammer down and maintain that pioneer spirit,” Holcomb said
Former Republican Gov.
Mitch Daniels, who was in attendance, said he heard echoes of himself in the
“He has the
mentality that we tried to maintain for eight years,” said Daniels, a
Republican who is now the president of Purdue University. “We are never
going to settle for the idea that Indiana has to be the middle of the pack.
His agenda will be different. There will be new people - there already are-
but I hope if there is a point of continuity it’s that attitude.”
Holcomb’s rise to the
governorship caps off an improbable series of events that even he never
would have predicted.
The Republican, whose term
formally began at 12:01 a.m., had never won an election until he defeated
Democrat John Gregg in November’s election.
One year ago, he was a
struggling Republican Senate candidate, lagging in fundraising and a virtual
unknown in Indiana despite more than a decade working as an operative at the
top levels of the state’s GOP politics.
But then Pence tapped him
in March to become lieutenant governor, replacing Sue Ellspermann, who
resigned to pursue the presidency of Ivy Tech Community College. Holcomb was
set as Pence’s re-election campaign running mate only to see the governor’s
race shaken up when Donald Trump chose Pence to be his running mate.
hand-picked successor, was a top aide to Daniels and U.S. Sen. Dan Coats.
That left him in good standing with members of the Republican state
committee, who picked him as the replacement candidate over two sitting
members of Congress.
When asked whether he
could have predicted his good fortune, Holcomb said: “Of course not.”
I lie to you (about that), you’d think I’d lie to you about anything,” he
Holcomb, 48, will enter
the governor’s office without an established political record. Before the
most recent election cycle, he last ran for office - and lost - during a
2000 bid for state representative.