Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) speaks during an Americans for Prosperity rally… (Reuters )
Rep. Mike Pence announced Thursday that he will run for governor of Indiana, fulfilling Republican expectations that he would make the state race in 2012.
Pence, a darling of his the conservative wing of his party of the "tea party" movement, will try to succeed Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is barred by state law from seeking a third consecutive term. Daniels is weighing whether to run for the GOP presidential nomination, a race that Pence decided to skip so he could run for governor.
In a conference call with supporters, Pence praised Daniels' tenure and added that there was work to be done to help Indiana grow.
"The work isn't over," Pence said. "To keep Indiana growing, Hoosiers know we must have principled leadership at every level to make the right choices."
Pence, a six-term congressman, resigned his No. 3 GOP House leadership post in November, signaling he wanted to run for something. He ruled out a presidential bid in January. He acknowledged on Thursday that his gubernatorial announcement may be the "worst kept secret in politics." He had hoped to announce his intentions in Indiana on Monday, but delayed because of the national attention on the raid that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Democrats had been expecting the announcement. In an email to reporters, Indiana Party Chairman Dan Parker lost time in going on the attack.
"Congressman Mike Pence loves Washington so much so that he made his campaign announcement from there instead of heading back to the heartland and standing with the Hoosiers he wants to represent," Parker stated.. "It's fair to say there aren't many Republicans in Washington who are prouder partisans than Congressman Mike Pence, and that's the kind of attitude that makes it impossible to get things done."
Pence, who often describes himself as "a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order," is considered the favorite in the race because his standing and campaign experience. He has strong name recognition, though some other Republicans are weighing a challenge for the nod.
On the Democratic side, former House Speaker John Gregg is considered a possible candidate. Former Sen. Evan Bayh has ruled out the race.