Mike Pence – Former Vice President of the United States
Mike Pence was born Michael Richard Pence on June 7, 1959 in Columbus, Indiana, from parents Nancy Jane (nee Cawley) and Edward J. Pence Jr., an Irish Catholic Democrat couple who oversaw a group of gas stations in Columbus. Pence attended Columbus North High School and later earned a BA degree in history from Hanover College, graduating in 1981. Following his graduation, Pence worked as an admissions counselor at the same college, between 1981 and 1983. He continued his studies pursuing a law degree at Robert H. McKinney School of Law, part of Indiana University. During his time at Indiana, he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity where he eventually became chapter president.
Pence become politically involved in his teens and early adulthood, when he volunteered for the Bartholomew County Democratic Party in 1976. His interest in politics was inspired by his great admiration for John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. After meeting his future wife in college, Pence renounced Catholicism to become an evangelical, born-again Christian. At the same time, his political views also suffered an important shift to the right, since Pence realized he identified better with the conservatism of Ronald Reagan.
Making of a Politician
In 1986, after having obtained his law school diploma, Pence found a job as an attorney in private practice. His political involvement grew significantly and he ran for a congressional seat in 1988 and in 1990, both times unsuccessfully. Despite quitting his job to be able to work full-time for his political pursuits, Pence undermined his own campaign by using political donations to pay his mortgage, personal credit card bills, groceries, car payment for his wife, and even golf tournament fees. Even though this was legal at that moment, it had a negative impact on his popularity.
After this political failure, he was appointed president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation in 1991 and he joined State Policy Network. In 1993, he left the foundation, after he become increasingly busier running and hosting a radio talk-show program in Rushville, Indiana, called The Mike Pence Show, aired on 18 different stations throughout the state. A few years later, he became the host of a political talk show from Indianapolis, where he worked from 1995 to 1999.
United States Representative from Indiana
In 2000 Pence decided to resurrect his political career and the first step was to run for the U.S. House of Representatives. He succeeded in winning the seat in Indiana’s 2nd congressional district comprised of almost 19 counties in eastern Indiana. Pence remained loyal to the image he conveyed during his time as a talk-show host, promoting himself as a “Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order”. As soon as he took office, he became acknowledged as a man with strong convictions and an unyielding will who is determined to go his own way. During his first years in the Congress, he opposed two of President Bush’s policies – No child Left Behind action and the Medicare prescription drug development. His attitude brought him comfortable years in the following elections, and he was re-elected four more times. As he climbed the leadership structures of the party, Pence become the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a group of House Republicans self-described as conservative. He held the position for two years, between 2005 and 2007.
In 2006, Pence was a candidate for United States House of Representatives, where he wanted to be a minority leader of the Republican Party, but he lost the election in favor of the Representative of Ohio. Three years later, in 2009, he managed to secure a place as the Republican Conference Chairman, the third most important position in the leadership of the Republican Party. Since he didn’t have any opponents, Pence was voted unanimously. The success was significant for Indiana, who did not have a representative on a House leadership position for more than 25 years. Despite having introduced 90 bills and resolutions in his twelve years in the House, Pence did not have the chance to see any of his proposals become law. For most of these twelve years, his committee assignments were Agriculture, Judiciary, International Relations, and Foreign Affairs.
Mike Pence Short Video Biography
A Rising Political Star – Governor of Indiana
In 2008, Esquire magazine included Pence on the list of the ten best members of the Congress, since Pence had positioned himself as an ideologue with strong principles and he proved his support for the Tea Party movement. He was considered a viable Republican candidate for the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012. Starting with May 2011, Pence declared his intention to be nominated as a Republican candidate for governor of Indiana. While his name had a strong positive recognition, Pence did not have an easy way to the sought position. The race proved to be tight and heated between the candidates, yet Pence won with just under 50% of the vote.
His insistence on promoting tax cuts and job growth led to his winning, so in January 2013, he became the 50th governor of Indiana. Once he took office as a governor, Pence acted promptly on his desire to have all his congressional papers sealed. He donated them to the Indiana University. The public will have no access to the papers from the 12 years that Pence spent in the Congress until 2022 or until his death.
In 2013, Pence raised a wave of disapproval after signing a law that prohibited local governments of Indiana from demanding business owners to provide higher wages and more benefits beyond those established by the federal law. Following loyally his reputation as conservative, Pence proved to be a firm fiscal conservative as well. In the same year, he operated the largest tax cut in the history of Indiana, by sealing the deal on a $1.1 billion giveback. He proved to be interested in steering funds toward the development of the state’s infrastructure. In 2014, the job growth in Indiana lagged behind the national average and the state’s economy was seen as among the slowest growing in the United States.
In 2016, two major companies made public their decision to close their facilities in Indiana and move to Mexico their 2,100 jobs. Pence expressed both his concern and disappointment, especially after his attempts to persuade the companies to remain in Indiana proved unsuccessful. However, the companies reimbursed the governments for all the tax incentives. If in 2016 the state of Indiana had a $2- billion surplus in the budget and a triple-A credit rating, the citizens were less impressed, considering that the state’s wages are below national average wage.
In 2014, Pence proposed and signed a bill to allow firearms to be stored in vehicles from a school property and in 2016 he legalized captive hunting of deer raised in the farms of Indiana. His measures were meant to attract gun-related business to run operations in Indiana, but they created animosity both in the government and on the public scene.
Pence had several attempts to prevent Syrian refugee from finding settlement in Indiana, however all his attempts were unsuccessful. A federal judge decided in court in February 2016 that Pence’s order to refuse federal funds to a local non-profit refugee shelter was unconstitutional.
Controversy Over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act
One of the most controversial moment in Pence’s governor career happened in 2015, when he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, trying to offer protection to business owners who did not want to provide services for same-sex weddings. His measure was met with reluctance by the moderate members of the Republican Party and by several companies, which threatened Pence of moving their business elsewhere. Thousands of people protested and the mayors of Seattle and San Francisco went as far as to ban any official travel to Indiana. Pence refused to acknowledge the discrimination proposed by his bill and argued in his defense, trying to persuade the public about his innocent stance on the LGBT issues.
In 2015, due to the backlash and severe pressure, and to attenuate the controversy, Pence agreed to revise the law providing an additional bill as an exemption meant to protect LGBT communities. A total of 1000 jobs would have been moved out of the state and $40 million for the expansion of Angie’s List headquarters would have been lost, if Pence hadn’t agreed to change the bill. However, one year later, Pence got himself in another major controversy when he signed a bill to forbid abortions in cases of disability of the fetus or in cases when the procedure was determined by the race or the gender of the fetus. A federal court blocked the abortion bill from taking effects, because of its unconstitutional nature.
Governor Pence Supports the Coal Industry in Indiana
Pence is a firm supporter of the coal industry and during his term in the office, the Indiana General Assembly repeatedly attempted to diminish and to extinguish any efforts towards renewable energy development. Moreover, Pence officially wrote to President Obama in 2015, stating his refusal to let Indiana comply with the Clean Power Plan, an initiative meant to regulate carbon emissions. His vehemence became clear when Indiana joined several other states in a lawsuit to undermine the plan.
Vice President of the United States
Soon after announcing his decision to candidate for a second term as governor of Indiana, Pence remained in the spotlight due to his nomination as the vice-presidential candidate for the Republican presidential nominee in the 2016 election, Donald Trump. Despite Pence having opposed some of Trump’s views in the past, he was considered a suitable running partner for Trump, especially due to his connections in the Congress and strong reputation among conservatives. Donald Trump announced his choice for the vice-presidential nominee on July, 2016 and declared a day later, during a press conference, that he considers Pence “a man of honor, character and honesty”. Even though Donald Trump was still a controversial figure in the Republican party, receiving both support and vehement criticism, Pence preferred to remain composed and moderate in his acceptance speech and spoke in a favorable light about Trump.
In November 2016, as Donald Trump won the presidential election against the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Mike Pence became the vice president elect of the United States. Most working class and blue-collar Americans saw in this unexpected victory of Trump and Pence an unquestionable rejection of establishment politics, which will bring great changes in the life of the United States.
Soon after the election, when he returned to his home state, Pence discovered he had been caught in a legal battle. He had to go to court to conceal the information contained in an email received from a political ally. The email disclosed Pence’s desire to include Indiana in a group of states joined together to sue President Barack Obama in an attempt to block his executive actions on immigration. While the Democratic lawyer Bill Groth seeks to make the email public as a proof of political transparency, the Indiana Supreme Court hasn’t yet decided to release the email. Pence’s defense team wants to protect the content of the email by invoking the state’s Access to Public Records Act.
Coronavirus Task Force
With the outbreak of the deadly Covid-19 around the world in early 2020, President Trump tapped Vice President Pence to lead the coronavirus task force in late February. This was a truly high level assignment taken on by Pence, as there were many opportunities for error or short-sightedness as the Covid-19 virus began to sicken and kill hundreds, then thousands, of Americans. Pence began a series of daily press briefings to go over the governments response to the pandemic. Before long, the president started to attend and dominated the briefings. Pence was careful not to directly contradict the president, saying he supported "the president's leadership," adding "We're going to give [the states] guidance and, as the president's indicated, we'll continue to respect the leadership and partnership that we forge with every governor in America." In his role as leader of the task force, Pence maintained working relationships with governors, even as some were in open revolt against the president. In late May 2020, the administration began to wind down the daily briefings and work the issues behind the scenes.
Mike Pence is married to Karen, a former elementary school teacher, whom he met in college. The couple has been together since 1985 and they have three adult children: Audrey, Charlotte and Michael. Karen worked several years for nonprofit organizations focused on youth issues.
- 5 faith facts on Mike Pence: A 'born-again, evangelical Catholic', National Catholic Reporter on July 15, 2006
- 10 things you should know about Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s likely running mate, by Amber Phillips in The Washington Post, July 14, 2016
- What You Didn't Know About Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, by Danielle Burton in U.S. News & World Report, November 15, 2006
- "Donald Trump selects Mike Pence as VP", by Eric Bradner, Dana Bash, MJ Lee, on CNN, July 16, 2016
- West, Doug. Vice President Mike Pence - A Short Biography. C&D Publications. 2017.
- Keith, Tamara. "For Pence, Coronavirus Task Force Is A High-Profile Assignment With Political Risk" April 29, 2020. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2020/04/29/847580759/for-pence-coronavirus-task-force-is-a-high-profile-assignment-with-political-ris Accessed November 2, 2020.
© 2016 Doug West