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Politicians: Mike Pence

Official portrait of Mike Pence, the Republican candidate for vice president.

Synopsis: Mike Pence was born in Indiana in 1959. He attended Hanover College and the Indiana University McKinney School of Law. After losing two bids for a U.S. congressional seat, he became a conservative radio host in the 1990s. Pence successfully ran for Congress in 2000 and was elected governor of Indiana in 2012. In July 2016, he became the vice-presidential running mate for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Formative Years

Michael Richard Pence was born June 7, 1959, in Columbus, Indiana. One of six children, Mike Pence was politically influenced by his Irish Catholic upbringing within his family.

As a student at Hanover College, he became more deeply religious. Later, he was inspired by President Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in history in 1981, he moved to Indianapolis in 1983 to attend the Indiana University McKinney School of Law, earning his law degree in 1986.

Early Professional Career

Mike Pence went into private practice following his graduation, and tried his hand at politics by working for the Marion County Republican Party. He ran for Congress in 1988 and 1990, losing both times to Democrat Phil Sharp. However, Pence learned a valuable lesson in defeat. Disgusted by his own series of attack ads, he wrote an essay in 1991 called "Confessions of a Negative Campaigner." From then on he promised to preach a positive message.

Meanwhile, his public profile continued to grow. For several years Pence served as president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a conservative political group. Generally, conservatives like the way things are traditionally done, and resist social change. Pence made the leap to talk radio in 1994 with "The Mike Pence Show." He was unapologetic in his support of a conservative agenda, but he was respected for his level-headed manner and willingness to listen to opposing views.

U.S. Congressman

Pence ran for Congress again in 2000, this time winning a seat. Describing himself as "a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order," he was not afraid to resist party lines. He earned a reputation as a man of strong convictions and easily won re-election five times.

Pence is a strong fiscal conservative, which means he supports limited government spending. In 2011, there was a fight in Congress over funding for Planned Parenthood, a group that provides health services for women and families. Like many conservatives, Pence opposed providing money to the group. When Congress failed to reach a compromise, Pence supported a controversial plan to shut down the government.

Indiana Governor

In 2011, Pence announced his plan to run for governor of Indiana. Despite strong name recognition and a platform focused on tax cuts and job growth, he ended up in a tough race with Democrat John Gregg. Pence eventually won with just less than 50 percent of the vote.

Pence got to work fulfilling his promises, and in 2013 he passed the largest tax cut in state history. By 2016, Indiana was enjoying a $2 billion budget surplus. However, critics point out that the state's workers earn less than the national average.

Pence found himself on shaky ground after signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in March 2015. The law was intended to protect business owners who did not want to participate in same-sex weddings. However, many people believe the law discriminates against people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Pence encountered resistance from moderate Republicans and businesses that threatened to leave the state.

Donald Trump's Running Mate

In July 2016, Pence became the vice presidential candidate for the 2016 Republican nominee, Donald Trump. During the primaries, Pence had opposed some of Trump's views. Still, he was believed to be a good running mate for Trump because of his strong support among conservatives.

At a press conference, Trump called Pence “a man of honor, character and honesty.”

On July 20, 2016, Pence accepted his party’s vice-presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. In his acceptance speech, Pence said of Trump: “You know, he’s a man known for a larger personality, a colorful style and lots of charisma. And so, I guess he was just looking for some balance on the ticket.”

"Donald Trump gets it. He's the genuine article. He's a doer in a game usually reserved for talkers," Pence said. "He's his own man, distinctly American. Where else would an independent spirit like his find a following than in the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

Family Life

Pence has been married to wife Karen since 1985. A former elementary school teacher, Karen Pence has also been involved with youth-related nonprofit organizations. The couple have three adult children: Michael, Charlotte and Audrey.

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Anchor 1: What the Text Says

Which sentence from the first two sections of the biography BEST explains why Pence became involved in politics?


One of six children, Mike Pence was politically influenced by his Irish Catholic upbringing within his family.


Later, he was inspired by President Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party.


Mike Pence went into private practice following his graduation, and tried his hand at politics by working for the Marion County Republican Party.


Meanwhile, his public profile continued to grow.

Anchor 1: What the Text Says

Which section highlights the idea that Pence has supported decisions that discriminate against certain people?


“Formative Years”


“Early Professional Career”


“U.S. Congressman”


“Indiana Governor”

Anchor 3: People, Events & Ideas

According to the biography, what is the MOST important reason why Donald Trump wants Pence as his presidential running mate?


because he has a larger personality, colorful style and lots of character


because he’s genuine, independent and distinctly American


because Pence can provide balance with his conservative inclination and honest character


because he can get strong support, which is important in the “land of the free and home of the brave”

Anchor 3: People, Events & Ideas

According to the biography, which of the following MOST influenced Pence’s re-election to Congress five times?


He wrote “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner” about his offensive ad attacks on his opponent.


He is true to his conservative beliefs, listens to others, and thinks through decisions.


He became popular through “The Mike Pence Show” on talk radio.


He supports new government health programs for women and families.


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