Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

July 9, 2013

TOM LoBIANCO: In GOP chair pick, many considerations balanced

All wings of the party like state Auditor Tim Berry.

When state Audi-tor Tim Berry was tapped last week to run the Indiana Republican Party, the public rejoicing among party leaders may have been as much about his popularity as it was about Gov. Mike Pence’s answers to some key political questions.

In Berry, Pence made a safe, cautious choice that will leave few party leaders grumbling.

More than Gov. Mitch Daniels, who stood as a unifying leader for a previously diminished party, Pence was faced with bridging divides: splits between pro-business Republicans and social and religious conservatives and a gulf between Marion County leaders and Republicans from Indiana’s outlying counties.

By the time those and many other considerations are taken up, Berry looks like a clear choice, said Craig Dunn, 4th District chairman and a member of the party executive committee who will ultimately vote on Berry July 22.

“I think what you do is you pick Tim Berry, who is well-liked by every wing of the party,” said Dunn, who is also the Howard County Republican Party chairman.

Dunn said he didn’t see geography playing as much a factor in the decision as it might have in previous years — Berry hails from Fort Wayne — and tabbed him a consensus pick for the party based on his broad popularity and recognition in Republican circles statewide.

Berry, a two-term state auditor, also spent eight years as Indiana treasurer. Along the way, he won broad support in GOP convention halls among party activists and bigwigs to score nominations that ultimately have secured him a statewide office every year since 1998. But Berry has never been strongly identified with either the pro-business party members who worked closely with Daniels, tea partiers aligned more with Treasurer Richard Mourdock or the religious conservatives who built Pence into a national player.

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