The waxing and waning GOP power


INDIANAPOLIS — With the GOP nomination of U.S. Sen. Mike Braun for governor, we now settle in to watch the lame-duck Holcomb administration depart while the candidate begins to put the pieces in place to extend the record Republican dynasty to six terms in November.

On Braun’s plate is the management of his nomination of freshman state Rep. Julie McGuire as lieutenant governor into a June Republican convention where delegates have a distinct history of defying even sitting governors. With temporary Republican Chairman Anne Hathaway immersed in managing the logistics for the National Convention in Milwaukee, Sen. Braun must pick a new chair. And with John Hammond III’s letter to the Republican Central Committee announcing he won’t seek another term as national committeeman, Braun will make a new selection there.

Then there’s the reality of gubernatorial politics, which is vastly different from running for the U.S. Senate or managing a legislative office. A case in point was McGuire’s proposed nomination. Most political reporters and pundits were planning to write about Braun’s emphatic 20% plurality victory over five primary rivals a week ago, when, lo and behold, the campaign abruptly announced the proposed McGuire nomination.

In essence, the Braun campaign stepped on its own primary victory milestone with the McGuire selection, which in past cycles would have been weeks in the offing. There’s speculation that the Braun campaign needed to stop any momentum of announced candidate Micah Beckwith, the Noblesville pastor who told State Affairs he was beginning a statewide tour to court the 1,800 convention delegates.

“Our goal was to get halfway to that majority plus one in delegates,” Beckwith told State Affairs on May 10. “From our calculations with our list going in who were supporting us and then our list coming out, we are at that 50% mark. Obviously, we’ve got work to do, but it was a strong night for us on the delegate front.” 

In the wake of McGuire’s proposed nomination, Beckwith said Braun “has every right to tell the delegates who he believes would be best for the job. I respect his right to do what he did. I don’t see it as a slam on me. I don’t think he sees what I’m doing as a slam on him. Regardless of if I win or lose, no matter what happens, I told him I’m on Team Braun — we’re going to link arms.”

McGuire could be a tricky sell to convention delegates. She defeated radical anti-abortion activist state Rep. John Jacob in the 2022 primary, with the House Republican Campaign Committee pumping more than $1 million to defeat him and state Rep. Curt Nisly. Beckwith will certainly be reminding the more socially conservative delegates of those campaigns.

“The social conservatives are decidedly not happy about Braun picking her,” Indiana Legislative Insight Publisher Ed Feigenbaum told Indiana Public Media. “And there are some in that camp that might not have already migrated to Micah Beckwith who will be going with team Micah.” Feigenbaum added that the lieutenant governor field could grow to include gubernatorial candidate Eric Doden and former Indiana GOP Chairman Jeff Cardwell.

The McGuire selection is expected to take on much more scrutiny in the coming month. She is a back-bench representative with few legislative bills passed, much like Mike Pence’s 2012 selection of freshman Rep. Sue Ellspermann as his lieutenant governor. After winning election with only 49% of the vote (the only modern ticket elected with less than 50%), Ellspermann resigned in February 2016.

Multiple sources cited a falling-out between Pence and Ellspermann that led to her resignation and subsequent appointment as president of Ivy Tech. That also paved the way for Gov. Eric Holcomb, who was nominated by Pence to succeed Ellspermann.

Braun and McGuire must demonstrate in the coming weeks that the Indianapolis freshman has the gravitas to hold the office of lieutenant governor and its sprawling agency portfolio. Will she be capable of succeeding Braun, who at age 70 will be one of the oldest Indiana governors in history if elected? McGuire was not made available by the Braun campaign this week, nor did she return a phone call from State Affairs.

Potentially complicating the McGuire selection were Holcomb’s comments at a Tuesday press scrum where he said delegates should weigh in. “You have to trust and respect the folks that vote at every stage. And at this stage, it’s at the convention,” said Holcomb, who in 2022 watched delegates rebuke his handpicked Secretary of State Holli Sullivan for nomination and opted instead for Diego Morales, who had accused Holcomb of overstepping his authority during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We have a history in Indiana of some tickets being blessed and some not,” Holcomb said. “And so that’s very instructive going into this convention, and [it’s] incumbent upon the gubernatorial candidate to make their pitch to the convention delegates of their preference. And so I’ve been there, done that. And it worked out OK for me.”

While Braun has promised to be the “most accessible” governor, Holcomb told reporters that the nominee needs to provide more policy detail. “And to do that, you have to have a plan,” Holcomb said. “And then you’ve got to implement and execute on that plan. You have to share that plan as well.”


Brian Howey is senior writer and columnist for Howey Politics Indiana/State Affairs. Tom Davies and Rory Appleton of State Affairs contributed to this column. Find Howey on Facebook and X @hwypol.