Pence taps state auditor as new Ind. GOP chairman

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence picked state Auditor Tim Berry Wednesday as the new Indiana Republican Party chairman.

Pence announced that he was recommending the state GOP executive committee approve Berry as the party chairman and Pence campaign manager Kyle Robertson as the party's executive director. Pence also announced Misty Dees Hollis, a party leader from Richmond, as his pick for vice chair.

Berry, from Fort Wayne, is in his second term as state auditor after serving eight years as state treasurer. He is term-limited from seeking re-election as auditor next year and would step out of the job early to take over the party.

"Having won four statewide elections, Tim Berry knows what it takes to run successful campaigns in Indiana," Pence said in a statement. "Tim is a cheerful leader who is well known throughout the state to Hoosier Republicans and will help our party grow as we work toward our goal of making Indiana 'the State that Works.'"

Berry will replace Eric Holcomb, who is leaving after close to three years as party chair to run U.S. Sen. Dan Coats' state office. The party's executive committee is expected to vote on Pence's picks July 22, although the vote will largely be a formality, as governors are typically given the freedom to pick their own party's chair.

Holcomb's departure, along with a raft of other top party officials, marks another passing from the era presided over by former Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Berry and Robertson will be tasked with helping defend supermajorities in state Senate and House, a 7-2 edge in the congressional delegation and a trio of statewide offices, including auditor, secretary of state and treasurer.

The naming of Berry could eliminate a potentially embarrassing situation for Republicans heading into 2014. Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who is term-limited from seeking re-election, has pondered making the same jump Berry made from the treasurer's office to the auditor's. But top Republicans nationwide continue to chafe at Mourdock's comments about rape and abortion made during last year's U.S. Senate race.

Pulling Berry out of the auditor's office would allow Pence to name a replacement and possibly forestall a Mourdock campaign.

Pence also has yet to pick who will serve as the state's committeewoman on the Republican National Committee, a coveted position that opens doors to national powerbrokers. Former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman announced she was stepping out of the role to focus more on her job as a regional economic development leader.

On Wednesday, at least, party leaders looked to keep the focus on Berry.

"I've known Tim Berry for 25 years and he's extremely competent, well-spoken and understands the Indiana political landscape as well as anyone I know," Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said in a statement. "He'll be an excellent Chairman."

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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