HANOVER PROUD: The Hanover College concert choir traveled to Indianapolis on Monday for the inauguration of Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Hanover graduate. The 30-member student choir, directed by Madlen Batchvarova, performed the national anthem during the ceremony. Freshman Montavia Rowley presented Holcomb with a Hanover sweatshirt backstage. Holcomb, the state’s 51st governor, is the fourth Hanover graduate to hold the position. Former governor and vice-president-elect Mike Pence is also a Hanover alum. Before them, Thomas Hendricks served as the state’s 16th governor from 1873-1877, and Albert Porter served as Indiana’s 19th governor from 1881-1885. (Photo courtesy of Next Level Indiana)
HANOVER PROUD: The Hanover College concert choir traveled to Indianapolis on Monday for the inauguration of Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Hanover graduate. The 30-member student choir, directed by Madlen Batchvarova, performed the national anthem during the ceremony. Freshman Montavia Rowley presented Holcomb with a Hanover sweatshirt backstage. Holcomb, the state’s 51st governor, is the fourth Hanover graduate to hold the position. Former governor and vice-president-elect Mike Pence is also a Hanover alum. Before them, Thomas Hendricks served as the state’s 16th governor from 1873-1877, and Albert Porter served as Indiana’s 19th governor from 1881-1885. (Photo courtesy of Next Level Indiana)
INDIANAPOLIS — Republican Eric Holcomb was sworn in Monday as Indiana’s new governor, calling on the state to do more for those who “feel they’ve been left out” despite a growing economy and low unemployment rate.

“Despite our standing, despite our ongoing momentum, we can’t afford to get complacent,” Holcomb said during his inaugural address at the Indiana State Fair grounds. “Too many are not participating in today’s economy or getting a quality education — are struggling with the strangling grip of drugs.

“Too many Hoosier grads explore opportunities outside our state line. Too many Hoosier businesses are having trouble finding the skilled workers they need to grow,” he said.

Holcomb’s speech highlighting the state’s successes while acknowledging its challenges contrasted sharply with style of his predecessor. Mike Pence, who will be sworn in later this month as vice president, usually focused on the good while putting a positive spin on the bad, channeling the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan.

Holcomb used movie references — including the film “Madison” - to describe Indiana’s can-do attitude.

“Think of Rudy or Breaking Away. One that’s less well known is Madison and, of course, there’s Hoosiers,” Holcomb said. “They’re all stories of perseverance, of David not just taking on but slaying Goliath, of the underdog punching above its weight class through hard work, utilizing their strengths, playing by the rules, getting the basics right.”

Holcomb said the workforce is aging. The state’s status as a manufacturing powerhouse faces fierce competition in a global economy. Even agriculture, woven into the state’s mythology, has its obstacles to overcome because the average farmer is 58-years-old, he said.

“Rather than ease up, we must hammer down and maintain that pioneer spirit,” Holcomb said

Former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who was in attendance, said he heard echoes of himself in the speech.

“He has the mentality that we tried to maintain for eight years,” said Daniels, a Republican who is now the president of Purdue University. “We are never going to settle for the idea that Indiana has to be the middle of the pack. His agenda will be different. There will be new people — there already are— but I hope if there is a point of continuity it’s that attitude.”

Holcomb’s rise to become the state’s 51st governor caps off an improbable series of events.

The Republican, whose term formally began at 12:01 a.m., had never won an election until he defeated Democrat John Gregg in November’s election.

One year ago, he was a struggling Republican Senate candidate, lagging in fundraising and a virtual unknown in Indiana despite more than a decade working as an operative at the top levels of the state’s GOP politics.

But then Pence tapped him in March to become lieutenant governor, replacing Sue Ellspermann, who resigned to pursue the presidency of Ivy Tech Community College. Holcomb was set as Pence’s re-election campaign running mate only to see the governor’s race shaken up when Donald Trump chose Pence to be his running mate.

Holcomb, Pence’s hand-picked successor, was a top aide to Daniels and GOP U.S. Sen. Dan Coats. That left him in good standing with members of the Republican state committee, who picked him as Pence’s replacement on the ballot over two sitting members of Congress.

When asked whether he could have predicted his good fortune, Holcomb said: “Of course not.”

“If I lie to you (about that), you’d think I’d lie to you about anything,” he said.

Holcomb, 48, will enter the governor’s office without an established political record. Before the most recent election cycle, he last ran for office — and lost — during a 2000 bid for state representative.
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