NEW YORK — Donald Trump has officially chosen Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, the billionaire businessman and presumptive Republican presidential nominee tweeted Friday.
Pence’s selection would give Trump a running mate with strong ties to the Republican base — particularly social conservatives. As governor, he faced major political backlash over his decision to sign into law a “religious freedom” measure that infuriated major businesses that saw it as anti-LGBT. He also signed a restrictive anti-abortion measure into law.
He advocated a constitutional same-sex marriage ban that the Republican-dominated Indiana legislature decided went too far in limiting LGBT rights. Then Indiana became the subject of a media storm in 2010 when Pence signed into law a “religious freedom” measure that would have allowed companies to assert that their exercise of religion had been violated as a defense if sued for turning away customers.
It was championed by social conservatives who saw it as a shield against same-sex marriages, but drew complaints from organizations like the NCAA and Salesforce, a major Indianapolis employer, and national scrutiny. It led Daniels’ former campaign manager, Bill Oesterle, to openly speculate about recruiting a primary challenger for Pence.
Pence, 57, was among the first Republicans to embrace the tea party movement and has ties to the Koch brothers and other influential donors who have so far stayed away from Trump.
As a running mate, Pence could connect Trump with socially conservative voters. He was among three finalists for the VP position, along with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who served during the Clinton administration, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a longtime friend of Trump’s.
He’s seen as a safe political option for Trump, but Pence made clear this week that he’s more than willing to play the role of attack dog, strongly criticizing Hillary Clinton during a rally with Trump.
Earlier in the campaign, Pence threw his support behind Sen. Ted Cruz before Indiana’s crucial May primary — a contest Trump won, knocking Cruz from the contest.
In addition to endorsing a Trump rival, Pence has been vocal about his criticism for his now-running mate. In December, he called Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. “offensive and unconstitutional.”
But on July 2, Pence and his wife Karen, who is also a close adviser, met with Trump in New Jersey for more than an hour and since then, Pence has repeatedly complimented Trump and vowed to help him in the general election, saying he thinks Trump “is going to be a great president.”
He also downplayed his disagreements with Trump on policy.
“Look, I served in Congress for 12 years. I’ve been a governor for three and a half years. I haven’t agreed with every one of my Republican colleagues or Democrat colleagues on every issue,” Pence said at the time. “But I’m supporting Donald Trump because we need change in this country, and I believe he represents the kind of strong leadership at home and abroad that will, to borrow a phrase, make America great again.”
Trump said he will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. Saturday regarding his decision. He was originally set to speak to the media Friday but delayed his announcement, he said, because of an attack in Nice, France in which a truck driver plowed through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day.
Despite the postponement, Pence as possible VP wouldn’t have been kept a secret much longer. He’d been seeking re-election in Indiana but, per state law, would have had to pull out of that race by noon Friday in order to campaign alongside Trump.