Who is Trump’s running mate? 7 things you may not know about Mike Pence

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) points to Indiana Governor Mike Pence (L) before addressing the crowd during a campaign stop at the Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Indiana, July 12,  2016. © John Sommers II
Indiana Governor Mike Pence is likely to be selected as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s running mate. He is on the short list with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

The Indiana governor is a staunch conservative and is a well-known, and generally well-liked figure in Republican circles. He has been in public office since 2000, most of that time in Congress, where he served six terms before becoming governor in 2013.

But here are the top seven things about Pence you may not know:

1. He endorsed Ted Cruz for president...sort of

Gov. Pence was very slow to show support for any of the Republican presidential candidate in the Indiana primary. Just four days before voters cast their ballots, however, he half-heartedly backed Texas Senator Ted Cruz, but was also quick to state boldly, “I’m not against anybody.”

That was perhaps politically astute as Trump trounced Cruz with a 16 percent lead, winning 53 to 37 percent. Cruz dropped out of the presidential race that night.

2. Pence is the guy who backed religious freedom over cake for gays

Pence became a household name for backing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would have allowed businesses in the state to deny services to gay people for religious reasons.

“This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it,” Gov. Pence famously tried to reassure reporters in 2015. “It doesn’t even apply to disputes between private individuals, unless government action is involved.”

But the bill brought him heat from Democrats and LGBT activists. It also caused governors in two states to ban official state business travel to Indiana, and led to threats of boycotts by leading corporations, including NASCAR and the NBA. Pence signed an amendment to the law, which stated it could not be used to discriminate against gay people.

But his stance made the state the butt of a joke at the 2015 White House correspondents’ dinner.

3. He spent $1 million on damage control after the cake fight

The state of Indiana hired a New York public relations firm to strengthen its image as “a welcoming place to live, visit and do business.” Everyone saw it was about damage control after the fight over the religious freedom bill.

The Associated Press reported the state’s Senate Appropriations Committee added $1 million to tourism funding in the state budget specifically for the purpose.

4. Wanted to ban Syrian refugees

Pence tried to bar state agencies from helping Syrian refugees from resettling in his state.

He also tried to cut state funding to the nonprofit organization Exodus Refugee immigration. His directive came three days after multiple terrorist attacks in Paris, where a Syrian passport was found near the bodies of the attackers. The passport was later found to belong to one of the 130 people who died in the attack.

The nonprofit group sued Pence, and the ACLU argued the government violated the US Constitution.

An Indianapolis federal judge found in March that the governor’s directive “clearly discriminates against Syrian refugees based on their national origin,” according to the AP.

5. Funeral rites for fetuses

Pence, a devout evangelical Christian, describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative and Republican, in that order.”

In March, Indiana joined North Dakota to ban abortions for fetal abnormalities. The measure also criminalized the procedure when motivated solely because of factors such as the fetus's sex or race.

Pence called it a "comprehensive pro-life measure that affirms the value of all human life" in a statement. But even Republican lawmakers in his state argued against the measure.

On a roll, Pence signed a truly bizarre bill that would have forced women to seek funerary services for a fetus. No matter how far along the pregnancy was or whether she had an abortion or miscarriage, the bill would have required all fetal tissue to be cremated or buried.

The wording of the burial provision meant that technically, even if a woman had a miscarriage at eight weeks of pregnancy at home, she would have to keep the blood and tissue, take it to a hospital, and have it buried or cremated by a funeral home.

Thankfully, the bill was blocked from going into effect last month by a federal judge, because it violated a woman’s right to choose.

6. Pence propaganda

In January last year, Pence tried to launch a state-run, taxpayer-funded news service called JustIN, which would have featured breaking news, stories written by press secretaries and light feature stories. The idea was met by revulsion by small Indiana newspapers and national news media.

The publisher of the Portland Commercial Review said, “I think it is a ludicrous idea…the notion of elected officials presenting material that will inevitably have a pro-administration point of view is antithetical to the idea of an independent press.”

7. Facing competitive reelection

Pence is running for re-election this year and his religious freedom debate did him no favors in his bid. He faces businessman John Gregg, who Democrats re-recruited, branding him a “gun-totin’, Bible-quotin’, Southern Indiana Democrat.”

The Washington Post is watching the race as one of the five top seats likely to flip parties.

Under Indiana law, Pence is prevented from seeking two offices at once. He faces a Friday deadline to withdraw from the governor’s race.