It should not go unremarked that Gov. Mike Pence picked a prominent Democrat to lead the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
Does this signal a major shift for Pence from a partisan politician and governor into a bipartisan bridge builder? That’s highly unlikely. But it may well be a sign that Pence knows he needs to do something to dispel the belief that he’s a highly insulated governor who only listens to those people from the conservative wing of the Republican Party.
That view was preserved forever in the photograph taken of the crew with him in his office when he signed the badly flawed, ridicule-inducing, Indiana-harming Religious Freedom Restoration Act during the legislative session. Those in his office included a who’s who of men representing the most conservative organizations in the state.
Picking Jim Schellinger, who in 2008 came close to winning the Democratic gubernatorial primary, doesn’t square with that photo. That’s good for the governor’s image and hopefully good for the state.
Schellinger is the CEO of an Indianapolis architectural company that has the Indianapolis International Airport, the Indiana Government Center and Circle Center Mall among its credits. He’s also worked with Pence as a member of the IEDC’s board of directors.
Pence called Schellinger a “consensus builder,” something Pence definitely has not been and said this in announcing the Democratic businessman’s appointment: “We need to come together as a state,” Pence said. “I don’t think jobs is a partisan issue. … We’re all in this together.”
Hey, that’s progress. But it’s disconcerting that this “need to come together as a state” was so ignored in the build-up to RFRA, then the explosion that accompanied its passage. Hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers — literally, hundreds of thousands, could have told him RFRA would be a great divider, had he been willing to listen at the time.
But we write today not to bury Pence but to praise him, if only mildly. He did ignore the party label in picking Schellinger, who has strong business credentials and understands what it takes to operate and expand a small business. And some comments he made when he campaigned in Bloomington right before the 2008 campaign suggest his desire to unite people.
“I never remember us being so polarized as a state, whether it be on the rights of working men and women, jobs and the economy, education, health care, government reform,” Schellinger said in a news conference at the Monroe County Airport. “And that’s just not like us as Hoosiers. We normally establish our common ground, talk about our differences, and work our way through it.”
Seven years later, we’re just as polarized, if not more. So if some of that 2008 campaign position sticks to the guy who just hired him, all the better.
This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.