Daniels: Family first

Governor nixes run for president, citing wife, four daughters
2011-05-23T00:00:00Z 2011-12-30T12:55:26Z Daniels: Family firstThe Associated Press The Associated Press
May 23, 2011 12:00 am  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has become the latest big-name Hoosier to say family concerns trump his political ambitions.

When former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., decided to vacate his Senate seat, he said it was to spend more time with his family and leave behind a bitter partisan atmosphere in Washington.

When Rep. Mike Pence ended speculation he would seek the Republican nod for president, he said he and his family decided "our calling is much closer to home."

Pence announced May 5 he was running for governor instead.

And Daniels has cited concern for his wife, Cheri, and their four daughters as the reason he won't join the race for the Republican nomination for president in 2012. Daniels announced his decision in a statement emailed to supporters early Sunday morning.

"We all believed he had all the elements in place to ... successfully win the Republican nomination," said John Hammond, a top Republican fundraiser who had been talking to donors about a possible Daniels presidential bid.

Hammond said he was disappointed but that Daniels always made it clear that family would be his deciding factor and "obviously he came down on the side of his family."

Presidential runs are a "white hot crucible of public scrutiny" for political families, Hammond said.

Indiana Tea Party activist Monica Boyer wanted Pence to run for president this time around, but said she understands why any candidate -- Democrat or Republican -- would avoid putting their family through that "crucible."

"It eats at your family," said Boyer, who has four children between 6 and 14 years old, works full-time and is an activist.

When Pence told supporters on his Facebook page that he would not seek the presidency, he collectively referred to his family throughout the announcement.

"The highest office I will ever hold is husband and father. As a family, we feel led to devote this time in our lives to continuing to serve the people of Indiana in some way," Pence wrote in the Jan. 27 note to supporters.

Daniels would not talk about his decision Sunday, spokesman Jane Jankowski said. And requests for comment from his closest advisers, including Mark Lubbers and Indiana Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb, went unreturned.

While Daniels' record as governor has gotten an extensive public vetting, little was known about his wife Cheri and the circumstances of their divorce and remarriage in the mid-'90s. The two have not talked publicly about the details and how it affected their daughters, other than to call it a good love story.

Cheri Daniels filed for divorce from Mitch Daniels in 1993. She married a California physician in 1995 in Indianapolis and divorced him a year and a half later. She remarried Daniels in April of 1997.

The Daniels' got an early taste of the national scrutiny they would feel at a Republican Party fundraiser about two weeks ago, which was headlined by an otherwise camera-shy Cheri Daniels.

Mitch Daniels, in a statement provided exclusively to The Indianapolis Star, blasted the slew of speculation about his wife's personal character that followed.

"The notion that Cheri ever did or would 'abandon' her girls or parental duty is the reverse of the truth and absurd to anyone who knows her, as I do, to be the best mother any daughter ever had," Daniels wrote, noting that they held joint custody of their daughters during that time.

That rough patch in the Daniels' family history was certain to get a closer treatment if he ran for president.

"Obviously Mitch does not want to revisit it, he was very careful in what he's said, that it was a good love story, and it may be that many people do not want to talk about those things," said Brian Vargus, professor of political science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

When Bayh decided not to run for re-election last year, he said it was to spend more time with his sons, Vargus pointed out. The professor noted, however, that once a politician's children have grown up it is easier for him or her to run for office.

Vargus said one example of that was John Gregg, who stepped down as Indiana's House speaker in 2002 saying he wanted to spend more time with his two sons. Almost a decade later, Gregg's sons have reached an age where he has said he feels comfortable running for governor against Pence.

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