Bio of Vice President Mike Pence

Profile of former Indiana Governor and ex-Congressman

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is picture here speaking in 2015.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump chose Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to be his running mate in the 2016 election. Aaron P. Bernstein / Getty Images Stringer

Mike Pence is a former congressman and governor of Indiana who was chosen by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to be his running mate in the 2016 election. Both Trump and Pence were elected. Pence is described as a "conservative's conservative" and was seen as a safe pick for the often erratic and mercurial reality-television star. 

Trump announced his choice of a running mate in typical Trump fashion, by posting the news on Twitter.

He tweeted: "I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate." 

Pence later tweeted: "Honored to join @realDonaldTrump and work to make America great again."

In announcing Pence as his running make, Trump sought to cast the Republican ticket as the "law and order candidates." Trump and Pence sought to contrast themselves with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, whose use of a personal email server drew fire from the FBI and involvement in numerous other scandals earned her the nickname "crooked Hillary."

Trump made the announcement on July 15, 2016, just three days before the start of that year's Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Trump's timing was typical in modern presidential politics. The party nominees often announce their choice of running mates in the days and weeks leading up to the nominating conventions.

Only twice have they waited until the conventions.

"What a difference between crooked Hillary Clinton and Mike Pence ... He's a solid, solid person," Trump said in introducing Pence. Trump described Pence as "my partner in this campaign."

Reaction to Trump's Choice of Running Mate

Trump's selection of Pence as a running mate was seen as both a safe pick and one that could come with potential pitfalls.

Trump will benefit from Pence's solid conservative credentials, particularly when it comes to social issues such as abortion and gay rights. Pence is an outspoken opponent of abortion rights and fierce defender of religious freedom. He came under fire in 2015 for signing a law that many believed would have allowed Indiana business owners to deny service to gays and lesbians on religious grounds.

Having Pence on the Republican ticket could win votes from religious conservatives who are not convinced Trump has the same convictions. Trump, who was registered as a Democrat for more than eight years in the 2000s, has remained relatively silent on social issues such as abortion and gay rights. Pence's aversion to the in-your-face style politicking could also complement Trump's more abrasive style of campaigning.

"Trump is unpredictable, forceful and, at times, impolite. Pence is predictable, some might say to a fault. Pence does not shy from a fight, but 'forceful' is not a word that is used often to describe him. Pence is Midwestern polite," Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, wrote in The Washington Post.

On the downside: Pence is seen as somewhat ... bland. Boring. Too conventional. He's also — again — socially conservative. Very socially conservative. And that, some pundits believe, could turn off moderate Republicans and independent voters.

“Mike sees himself as a champion of a very culturally conservative set of values that represent small-town Middle America,” Leslie Lenkowsky, a former professor at Indiana University, told The New York Times. “He sees his role as protecting them.”

Other Potential Running Mates

Pence was among three people Trump was seriously considering for the vice presidency. The other two were New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Pence, Christie and Gingrich were on Trump's final short list of potential running mates. 

Trump claimed Pence was his first choice all during the vetting process.

At least one published report indicated, however, indicated that Trump had sought to reverse course after the news media began reporting he had chosen the Indiana governor. Trump denied those reports. "Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was my first choice," Trump said.

The Clinton campaign, however, seized on claims Trump was waffling over his running mate. It released an ad with the line: "Donald Trump. Always divisive. Not so decisive."

Pence's Political Career

Pence served 12 years in the House of Representatives as the congressman from Indiana's 2nd and 6th Congressional Districts. He was later elected governor of Indiana and was serving his first four-year term when Trump asked him to join the 2016 presidential ticket.

Related Story: 10 People Hillary Clinton Could Pick for a Running Mate

Here's a summary of Pence's political career:

  • 1986: Ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives.
  • 1988: Ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives.
  • 2000: Won election to Indiana's 2nd Congressional District seat.
  • 2002: Won re-election to the seat, which was renumbered the 6th Congressional District. He also won re-election to two-year terms in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010. 
  • 2012: Won the Indiana governor election and took office in January 2013.
  • 2016: Chosen as Trump's vice presidential nominee.

Pence held two prominent leadership posts in the House: chairman of the Republican Study Committee and chairman of the House Republican Conference. 

3 Major Pence Controversies

One of the most high-profile controversies surrounding Pence came during his tenure as governor of Indiana.

The Periods for Pence movement was launched after Pence signed a strict anti-abortion law that banned women from getting the procedure if their motivation was to prevent the birth of a disabled child.

“I believe that a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable—the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn," Pence said after signing the law in March 2016. The law, he said, "will ensure the dignified final treatment of the unborn and prohibits abortions that are based only on the unborn child's sex, race, color, national origin, ancestry, or disability, including Down syndrome." 

The Periods for Pence movement protest the law, saying it treats women like children and is too intrusive. One provision of the law requires any miscarried fetus to be "interred or cremated by a facility having possession of the remains."

On Facebook, the Periods for Pence movement mocked the provision and urged women to flood the governor's office with calls.

"Fertilized eggs can be expelled during a woman's period without a woman even knowing that she might have had the potential blastocyst in her. Therefore, any period could potentially be a miscarriage without knowledge. I would certainly hate for any of my fellow Hoosier women to be at risk of penalty if they do not 'properly dispose' of this or report it. Just to cover our bases, perhaps we should make sure to contact Governor Pence's office to report our periods. We wouldn't want him thinking that THOUSANDS OF HOOSIER WOMEN A DAY are trying to hide anything, would we?"

"Let's make our bodies Mike's business for real, if this is how he wants it."

Another major controversy was Pence's signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015, which came under fire across the United States from critics who contended it allowed business owners to refuse service to gays and lesbians based on their religious beliefs.

Pence later signed a revised version of the law that stripped out the controversial provisions and said there had been misunderstanding about the original versions. "This law has become a subject of great misunderstanding and controversy across our state and nation. However we got here, we are where we are, and it is important that our state take action to address the concerns that have been raised and move forward.” 

Early in Pence's political career, he was embarrassed when it was discovered he used nearly $13,000 in donations to his 1990 congressional campaign to pay the mortgage on his house, as well as cover other personal expenses including his credit card bill, car payments and groceries. While not illegal at the time, Pence's personal use of political donations cost him the election that year. He apologized to voters and described his behavior as “an exercise in naivete.”

Professional Career

Pence, like many members of Congress and governors, is an attorney by trade. He also hosted a conservative talk radio show in the 1990s called the The Mike Pence Show, once describing himself as "Rush Limbaugh on decaf." 

Faith

Pence once considered entering the priesthood, according to The New York Times. He has described himself as an "evangelical Catholic." He has also said he is “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”

Education

Pence graduated with a bachelor's degree in history from Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana, in 1981. A college profile of Pence says he served as president of United Campus Ministries Board and on the staff of the student newspaper, The Triangle. He would be the second Hanover College graduate to be vice president. The first was 1841 graduate Thomas Hendricks, who was vice president under Grover Cleveland.

Pence earned a law degree from Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis in 1986. He graduated from Columbus North High School in Columbus, Indiana.

Personal Life

Pence was born in Columbus, Bartholomew County, Indiana, on June 7, 1959. His father was the manager of a gas station in town. 

He is married to Karen Pence. The couple got married in 1985 and have three children: Michael, Charlotte and Audrey.