*INDIANAPOLIS — The wildest Republican presidential nominating contest in perhaps all of American history soon could affect the election for Indiana governor and a host of other races across the Hoosier State.
Should Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, select Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate — the pair enjoyed a “warm, productive” meeting Saturday at a Trump golf club in New Jersey — it would temporarily leave the top spot on the state ballot vacant.
That’s because Indiana law does not allow a candidate to run for two offices simultaneously.
So, Pence would have to quit the governor’s race before the 11 a.m. Region time July 15 withdrawal deadline to appear on the November ballot as a candidate for vice president.
The short timeline shouldn’t be much of a problem, since presidential candidates of both political parties typically announce their vice presidential picks a few days before national convention delegates meet to confirm the selection.
The Republican National Convention begins July 18 in Cleveland.
Trump is scheduled to attend an Indianapolis fundraiser, and possibly participate in other campaign events in the state, on July 12.
The task of potentially replacing Pence as the GOP gubernatorial nominee falls to the 24-member Republican State Committee, led by Chairman Jeff Cardwell; former Schererville state Rep. Dan Dumezich, the party’s treasurer; other GOP officers; and two representatives from each of the state’s nine congressional districts.
Under Indiana law, the committee has 30 days following the post-primary withdrawal of a statewide candidate to select another individual to run for the office.
Among those reportedly interested in campaigning for governor if Pence withdraws are House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis; Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb; Indianapolis U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, a Munster native; state Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis; former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard; and Cardwell, a former member of the Indianapolis City-County Council.
However, just as Pence can’t run for two offices at once, neither can any other officeholder up for election this year, including Bosma, Holcomb and Rokita.
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According to the secretary of state’s office, they also would have to withdraw from the ballot by July 15 to be eligible for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
It’s less risky than it sounds.
For example, if Holcomb withdrew as the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor and didn’t win the party’s nomination for governor, the Republican State Committee simply could insert Holcomb back on the ballot to fill the party’s lieutenant governor vacancy.
Likewise, a caucus of precinct committeemen in congressional and state legislative districts could fill ballot vacancies by renominating a candidate who withdrew but was unsuccessful in the GOP governor’s race.
Though should a current officeholder be selected by the Republican State Committee to run for governor, that could trigger a wave of additional vacancies as GOP mayors, or other local officials not on the ballot this year, jump into now-open races for higher office.
Pence could even try to manipulate the outcome by immediately resigning as governor once Trump picks him for vice president.
That would elevate Holcomb to the state’s top job and make it seemingly impossible for the Indiana Republican Party, which Holcomb led from 2010 to 2013, to deny him the nomination.
Meanwhile, the Democratic nominee for Indiana governor, former House Speaker John Gregg, is busy campaigning on the issues he believes are important to Hoosiers — regardless of who his opponent is.
Gregg spoke Tuesday at the United Steelworkers Local 1999 union hall in Indianapolis pledging to do better at creating good-paying jobs compared to what he said is Pence’s record of low-wage employment growth and a relentless focus on divisive social issues.
“This job is too important just to have as a stepping stone,” Gregg said. “That’s why I stress the nuts-and-bolts of governing, the nuts-and-bolts of bringing people together and focusing on the things that make a difference.”
* This story has been changed.