By Leslie Bonilla Muniz
Indiana Capital Chronicle
August 9, 2023
Conservative pastor Micah Beckwith’s bid for Indiana’s second-highest office has rankled some Republican politicos — but don’t expect changes to the lieutenant governor selection process, according to party leaders.
Although everyday Hoosiers vote for their party’s gubernatorial nominee, it’s party delegates that select that person’s second-in-command. Still, delegates typically fall in line with the gubernatorial nominee’s preference.
But in June, Beckwith went public with his bid for the post — and a direct campaign to the Indiana Republican Party’s roughy 1,800 delegates.
Now some Republicans — including on the party’s central committee, according to multiple people familiar with the organization — want to put the power to choose more firmly in the hands of the gubernatorial nominee.
Though Indiana Code commands political parties to conduct state conventions and nominate candidates for lieutenant governor, it also gives state party committees the power to determine nominating procedures.
Each party’s nominees for governor and lieutenant governor must appear on the general election ballot together.
Party leaders uphold status quo
Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer downplayed talk of changes to the selection process.
“Nothing is (happening) right now,” he told the Capital Chronicle. But, he continued, “I mean, where I stand is that the governor should get their choice.”
He added that there are states that elect their lieutenant governors separately but Indiana isn’t one of them. Instead, the lieutenant governor nominee is the gubernatorial nominee’s running-mate, and they appear as one ballot selection on general election day.
“I think that, you know, those folks who are electing their governor candidate are entrusting them with that ability to choose their lieutenant governor,” Hupfer said.
He was one of four of the party’s current executive officers and central committee members to respond to Capital Chronicle requests for comment.
Jon Winkler, the party’s District 8 vice chair and Spencer County’s chairman, said letting delegates make the choice keeps power closer to “the people.”
“Our system’s been working really well the way it is, for the most part. A lot of times, your (lieutenant governor) will be the governor’s pick anyway,” Winkler acknowledged. “… Still, it’s not taking the voice of the people away.”
Party Secretary Mary Martin said she expected the process to “go just the way it is: delegates get to choose.” She separately works for U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, who is also a gubernatorial candidate.
“I live in the farthest corner of northeast Indiana — I live in Angola — and up in our area, people don’t even discuss that. It’s just a moot issue,” said Martin, who advocated for a greater focus on upcoming local elections.
Amanda Lowery, the party’s District 9 vice chair and Jackson County’s chairwoman, said she hadn’t yet formed an opinion on how the process should work.
“We’ll see how it goes,” she said of Beckwith’s bid.
Asked of her wait-and-see approach, Lowery added, “We’re in uncharted territory here.”
Governor candidates reassure delegates
The party’s four most prominent candidates for governor were largely supportive of the current selection process, although to varying degrees.
Senior Adviser Josh Kelly called Braun an “outsider” in a recent statement — “just like the hundreds of grassroots Hoosier conservatives that serve as convention delegates.”
Braun, he continued, “looks forward to working with the delegates next summer to find a Lt Gov candidate that shares his conservative values and can help further his agenda to make Indiana a beacon of freedom and opportunity.”
Indiana’s current Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch said she’s “not in favor of any changes” in a statement to the Capital Chronicle. And she pledged to maintain “a fair and open convention delegate process,” if elected governor.
“While I’ve had discussions with various Hoosiers about being a potential running mate when I become the Republican nominee for governor, I want to be clear — I respect our delegates and their role in this process,” she said.
She is rumored to be considering Congressman Greg Pence as a lieutenant governor running mate.
Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden’s campaign similarly said he “doesn’t support changing the current process.”
Former Attorney General Curtis Hill — who lost his reelection bid at a convention after a groping scandal — hedged.
“… We intend to announce our choice for running mate ahead of the primary, so as to give the voters the fullest understanding possible,” the campaign said.
But because the nominees are eventually partners, the campaign said that “the convention delegates should give deference to the nominee’s selection, as has historically been done.”
‘I think it would backfire’
For his part, Beckwith said he’d gotten overwhelmingly positive responses from likely delegates with whom he’d met — even if a conversation with one central committee member hadn’t gone quite as well.
“She was not very kind … she did not like in any way shape or form what I was doing,” he said.
And on Monday, Beckwith challenged Pence to embark on a similar run for lieutenant governor.
He said he was all-in on his campaign, but didn’t fear rule changes regardless.
“They already don’t want the people to have a voice,” he said of what he described as “elite ruling class” politicos “masquerading as Republicans.”
“I think it would backfire if they tried to do something like that, but let them try,” he added.
Capital Chronicle Editor Niki Kelly and Reporters Whitney Downard and Casey Smith contributed reporting.
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