Indiana voters could find something unusual on the ballot in 2016 under a measure state lawmakers will consider next year. Gov. Mike Pence's name could appear twice, once for governor and once for president of the United States.
A lot of "ifs" stand in the way of that happening -- including Pence ultimately deciding to run for the White House and winning the Republican Party nomination. But state Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, has submitted legislation that would help clear the way for Pence to seek two offices at once.
Delph's proposal, which was provided to The Indianapolis Star this week, would expand Indiana's election law to allow a sitting governor or state lawmaker to seek both re-election and election to any federal office at the same time.
"I think it's good for the state of Indiana to have a sitting governor in the national conversation and because of that I think it's in our interest to make the obstacles and roadblocks for Pence as minimal as possible," Delph said.
Delph and the state's other 149 lawmakers could all benefit from the measure, depending on their ambitions. But Delph, who had flirted with the idea of running for Congress in the past, said he will not run for higher office and said the focus of this measure is Pence.
Pence has stoked talk of a White House run through his travels across the nation and abroad in the past year. He has said that he is considering a run but will not announce a decision until the 2015 legislative session wraps up at the end of April. He added to speculation this week with a nine-day trip to Israel, marked by a dinner with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and a much-touted meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Lawmakers return in one week for their "long session," which will be dominated by budget talks and education fights. But other measures, like Delph's, will be in the mix as well.
Indiana law currently bars candidates from seeking a state office and federal office on the same ballot. Typically that forces a decision for ambitious politicians: stick by the safe, state-level seat, or aim high for Washington.
The discussion Delph is pushing is similar to one being held just across the Ohio River in Kentucky, where supporters of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul would like to alter rules to allow him to seek the presidency without having to vacate his Senate seat. However the Democrats' success in holding the Kentucky House of Representatives this past election appears to have made any change unlikely.
It also wouldn't be the first time Indiana added an exception for ambitious politicians. In the 1988 election, state lawmakers approved legislation allowing former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton and former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar run for re-election to their respective seats and appear on the presidential ticket, if they chose to run.
Brad King, co-director of the Indiana Elections Division, noted that the change for Lugar and Hamilton only affected a federal officeholder seeking another federal office.
Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, pointed out that if Delph was only focused on Pence's career, he didn't have to add the expansion for state lawmakers.
He also said the Delph proposal clearly goes much further than the change made for Hamilton and Lugar almost three decades ago. But, he said, the purpose remains the same: allowing politicians to hedge their bets.