Pence, Gregg, women, and Planned Parenthood
By Rick Yencer
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - Indiana's new lieutenant governor will be a woman from southern Indiana who either supports Planned Parenthood or wants to end public funding for it.
And it's easy to see how Mike Pence, Republican gubernatorial hopeful, found freshman State Rep. Sue Ellspermann, R-Ferdinand, given his position to deny funding to the national organization that provides family planning and birth control to millions of women.
It was less obvious that Democratic gubernatorial challenger John Gregg would pick veteran State Sen. Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsville, as his running mate. Simpson has been a long supporter of abortion rights and public funding for Planned Parenthood.
The Planned Parenthood protest of Pence and his new running mate underscored the issue of how women will decide the next governor of Indiana. Even local polling in the May 8 primary found white women of higher income and education were the majority at the polls.
And Ellspermann is an industrial engineer and founded her own consulting business before joining the University of Southern Indiana as director for the Center for Applied Research and Economic Development. Pence lauded her experience in state government besides her business background as qualifications for his running mate.
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma of Indianapolis also applauded Pence's choice, saying Ellspermann was among House Republicans that championed Right to Work, pro life and economic development legislation
By day's end, Gregg's campaign had leaked that Simpson would be his choice as running mate. Simpson is a lawyer and was the Monroe County Auditor before she was elected to the Indiana Senate in 1984. That was made official on Tuesday with Simpson saying the time was right for a governor like Gregg who valued high quality education for Hoosier youth besides attracting companies that lead to new jobs.
Former state senator Sue Errington, the Democratic nominee to Indiana House District 34 seat, was not surprised at Pence's choice of running mate, but doubted Simpson would be Gregg's lieutenant governor. Errington also is a retired Planned Parenthood executive. By Tuesday, Errington was meeting with fellow women Democratic House candidates, Katie Morgan, running in House District 31 and Melanie Wright, hopeful in House District 35, to discuss the campaign to win back a majority in the House.
Last year, Ellspermann co-authored a bill that banned Medicaid patients from going to Planned Parenthood because some provided abortions. And Simpson was outspoken fighting against the ban. And she voted with House Republicans to pass the Right to Work bill that Gov. Mitch Daniels signed into law.
Errington also said Pence led the attack for defunding Planned Parenthood nationally and was a strong pro life supporter.
"The Republicans waged an attack against women, and Pence led that attack," she said.
Errington also believed Simpson would rally the troops and ensure Democrats got out the vote regardless of Gregg's views against abortion.
Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, added his support, saying Simpson was one of most effective lawmakers ever to serve in the Indiana Geneal Assembly.
"Her passion for helping people of our state is unmatched," said Lanane, who also represents Muncie. "And Vi's knowledge of state government and how it can move Indiana into the future is unparalleled."
Brian Howey, a political reporter that writes that popular Howey Politics Indiana, agreed that women would be key to the governor's race, and also could shape some key legislative and congressional races.
Besides that, two women are destined to replace men as Indiana congressmen, former U.S. Attorney Susan Brooks, GOP nominee for the 5th congressional district and former Republican state representative Jackie Walorski in the 2nd congressional district. Both are assured their seat in Congress because of safe Republican districts.