Will Beckwith be a Braun team player (or a wild card?)


INDIANAPOLIS — After his second unsuccessful congressional run, Mike Pence launched his radio and TV shows where he and his bipartisan guests weighed in on the issues of the day throughout the 1990s.

Pence would win a congressional seat in 2000, spending 12 years in Congress before his run for Indiana governor and then as Donald Trump’s vice presidential choice in 2016. But to find the audio/video trail of Pence’s observations, thoughts, assertions and criticisms as he rose to national prominence would prove elusive. Most of these archives have since disappeared. By design, he wouldn’t be answering about something he said on air in 1997.

Last weekend Indiana Republican delegates nominated Noblesville pastor Micah Beckwith for lieutenant governor, upsetting gubernatorial nominee Mike Braun’s preferred choice. Beckwith is an unusual candidate. He ran independently for an office that traditionally had been the choice of the standard bearer. His public service record was confined to a brief stint on the East Hamilton Library Board, where he made headlines by seeking to ban children’s books he deemed as “pornographic.”

And Beckwith along with Nathan Peternel has produced the podcast “Jesus, Sex & Politics,” which they describe as a discussion about “all the topics surrounding our culture that scare you and that you’re not allowed to talk about at the Thanksgiving dinner table.” They delve into the happenings around the culture in 118 episodes. For political opposition researchers, this will be a treasure trove of commentary.

Already, there has been much scrutiny over a Jan. 7, 2021 podcast about the U.S. Capitol insurrection the day before when Beckwith said God had told him, “Micah, I sent those riots to Washington. What you saw yesterday was my hand at work.”

Indiana Democratic Chairman Mike Schmuhl described the Beckwith “baggage” that’s “just going to keep coming.”

“The biggest thing is this belief that Jan. 6 is something that God wanted to happen, that it was divinely inspired, that God spoke to them to send them to the Capitol,” Schmuhl said. “That is not just something rejected by the vast majority of Americans; it’s rejected by the vast majority of Hoosiers.”

Braun made it clear who will be calling the shots. “There’s no doubting this — I’m in charge,” Braun said at a media scrum after the convention. “Micah is going to be someone who works with me. If he doesn’t, I think that means that it will probably be less fruitful what we are able to get done.

“My running mate can say whatever he wants,” Braun said. “If it doesn’t make sense, if it doesn’t resonate, remember, I’m going to be the governor.”

On WIBC-FM’s “Kendall & Casey” show on Monday, Beckwith said, “He’s right — he’s the governor. I’m not trying to be the governor. I’m not going to try to get out ahead of that in any way, shape or form.

“But,” Beckwith continued, “I will say we now have the people’s voice in two of those offices within the executive branch. If there’s ever an issue, I know what hills I’m willing to die on, what hills I’m not willing to die on. If he runs off course, and I don’t expect him to do that, but, God forbid, what (Gov. Eric) Holcomb did in 2020, I would be there to say, ‘Hey, you can’t do this.’”

The challenge for the Braun campaign will be the fold Beckwith into the operation, something that was a work in progress earlier this week. Normally, a gubernatorial campaign forms distinct talking points and the nominees stick to them. Gov. Pence was legendary for never deviating from a very strict set of talking points.

GOP delegates have given Team Braun a free-lancer in Beckwith, and it will be fascinating to see whether the pastor becomes a team player, or a wild card.

An example came when Democratic nominee Jennifer McCormick and Chairman Schmuhl called Beckwith a “Christian nationalist,” adding, “He sees the church as the state.”

Asked about the tag, Beckwith said on WIBC’s “Kendall & Casey” last Monday, “People in the media say, ‘He’s a Christian nationalist.’ I don’t let the left redefine words. I am because I love Christ and I love my nation. Christianity and nationalism are good things. That’s what Saturday was — it was God’s hand moving.”

Terre Haute attorney Jim Bopp Jr., a conservative who has helped shape Indiana’s current abortion restrictions, sees Beckwith as a danger to Braun. In a memo to the Braun campaign last Sunday, Bopp writes, “Beckwith’s nomination as Lt. Gov poses a serious threat to the Braun candidacy, election and administration. By running against Beckwith, the Democrats will be able to [raise] unlimited funds from their left wing allies and billionaire liberal supporters. In taking down Beckwith, they take down Braun. And they will paint the whole ticket, including [Attorney General] Todd [Rokita], with this brush.

“Braun will be asked, and held in account, for every statement Beckwith has ever made,” said Bopp. “So how does Braun respond? If he is viewed to be repudiating Beckwith or even distancing himself from him, he loses support from hardcore Beckwith supporters, and if he [embraces] Beckwith, he feeds into the Democrat campaign.”

The Braun campaign characterized the Bopp memo as “one man’s opinion.”

“It’s gonna be about Mike Braun,” senior advisor Josh Kelley said.

Or as the zen master would say, “We’ll see.”

Howey is a senior writer and columnist for State Affairs/Howey Politics Indiana. Follow him on X @hwypol.

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