Joshua Claybourn: Suzanne Crouch knows how to govern
Tuesday, August 02, 2016 10:12 AM
EVANSVILLE – Most Hoosiers know little or nothing of Republican lieutenant governor candidate Suzanne Crouch. She hasn’t spent decades on the talk radio circuit like Mike Pence, she doesn’t have a family pedigree like Evan Bayh, and she hasn’t spent a lifetime building a statewide political network like Eric Holcomb. But she is good at one thing in particular: Governing.
Policy wonks have long admired Crouch. She served for many years as vice chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, quietly toiling away at the nittygritty work of budgets and appropriations. As a state representative Crouch also advocated for legislation creating a new Transparency Portal which offers data and links for anyone to review state spending, revenues, salaries, contracts, and performance and accountability measures.
In 2013, after the resignation of Dwayne Sawyer, Crouch was appointed state auditor and immediately set to work improving the transparency portal. Its success exploded and a number of government watchdog groups ranked Indiana’s portal as one of the best in the nation.
Transparency is a consistent theme for Ms. Crouch throughout her political career, which she began as county auditor in 1995, county commissioner in 2003, state representative in 2005, and most recently as state auditor. As she told the Chicago Tribune, transparency “is what people want. It’s what they expect from government.”
Many Hoosiers in the GOP have begun placing their fellow Republicans in one of two camps. You’re either a Lugar/Daniels Republican, focused most on the mechanics of government efficiency and budgets, or a Pence Republican, which is more ideological and likely to embrace the social and culture wars. There is no doubt Ms. Crouch falls in the former camp, but the camp is less clear for her running mate at the top of the ticket and the legislature which would send them bills.
How will Crouch react when the legislature considers a bill to expand civil rights laws or tinkers further with abortion legislation? Will she and Holcomb embrace Donald Trump’s offensive and disastrous campaign, now joined by Holcomb’s current boss? Could Crouch and Holcomb dictate a pragmatic vision the legislature would follow, or will they succumb to many of their Republican cohorts in the legislature who insist on jumping in the trenches of ideological warfare? Those are questions many Hoosiers will be asking over the coming months.
Ms. Crouch’s brand and campaign style should help Holcomb make the case to suburban Hoosiers disaffected by the Pence years. Spend even just a few minutes with her and she’ll ooze the aura of someone focused on policy more than politics, but that belies Crouch’s strong track record as a tireless campaigner and fundraiser.
Since being selected as state auditor she’s become a regular on the statewide Lincoln Day dinner circuit, so even if they know nothing of her policies, many Indiana Republican insiders have long been familiar with Crouch’s trademark red-rimmed glasses.
As a state representative Crouch held a relatively safe seat, but unlike many others in that situation she did not rest on the demographics of her district. Instead, using her position as vice chair of the ways and means committee, she would fundraise for the state party, which in turn rewarded her with even more authority and access.
Districts made safe by demographics can conceal a subtle political strength. Suzanne Crouch understands effective campaigns and, more important, effective governance. In his first major act as the Republican candidate for governor, Eric Holcomb made the right choice by picking Suzanne Crouch as his running mate.
Claybourn is an Evansville attorney practicing at Jackson Kelly PLLC.