Columbus, Indiana, awoke Wednesday to learn that its native son, Mike Pence, has become vice president-elect of the United States.
Pence, 57, the Indiana governor, in mid-July added his name to the top of the Republican ticket by agreeing to Donald Trump’s offer to become his running mate.
After six terms in Congress and a four-year stint as governor, next stop for Mike Pence is the White House.
While always introduced as the Indiana governor and GOP vice presidential candidate, Gregory Pence says most Americans now talk about his brother in an entirely different way these days.
Just a week ago, Gregory Pence was helping the cause close to home outside the Exit 76 Antique Mall in Edinburgh — just outside of Columbus, where Mike Pence was born.
More than 70 people showed up last Tuesday at the store owned by Gregory and Denise Pence for a mini Trump-Pence rally featuring Trump-Pence Indiana campaign chairman Rex Early, vice chair Tony Samuel and state director Suzie Jaworowski.
“Drama is what people are most interested in,” Gregory Pence told the crowd of local Republican supporters that day.
Seven days later, drama is what Pence backers got.
As in a dramatic, surprise win for the Republican presidential ticket.
As 16 student volunteers from Sandy Creek Christian Academy in Seymour were putting up long rows of Trump-Pence yard signs along Executive Drive near the antique mall, Gregory Pence said things were much different during his brother’s earlier days in politics.
When Mike Pence was an Indiana congressman from 2001 through 2012, most people wanted to politely discuss national issues, Gregory Pence said.
After he was elected governor and inaugurated in January 2013, people were still interested in his policies — either in a positive or negative way, depending on their political affiliation, the governor’s brother said.
“There’s none of that now,” Gregory Pence said, “All anyone asks is ‘What’s it like?’ It is just so other-worldly to most people that a guy from Columbus, Indiana, is running for vice president.”
And winning the race for vice president.
After Trump chose Mike Pence to be his running mate in July, the entire family found itself immersed one way or the other in the sometime surreal world of celebrity, other family members confirmed.
For Gregory’s wife and business partner, Denise Pence, the strangest moment came as she was serving as one of 57 Indiana delegates to the National Republican Convention in Cleveland in July.
“When I was standing on the floor, casting my vote for Mike Pence for vice president, I was very emotional,” Denise Pence said. “And when I’m told to expect hundreds at a rally — but thousands show up — that was also surreal.”
And after returning to their Columbus home, Denise Pence said she finds much of her time taken up by phone calls from old high school classmates she hasn’t heard from in decades, she said.
For Mike Pence’s mother, Nancy Pence Fritsch, also of Columbus, the experience of having her son on the GOP presidential ticket is new, unusual, and — as she calls it — “a blessing.”
“Suddenly, my world became smaller,” said Fritsch, who also attended last Tuesday’s event near Edinburgh Premium Outlets. “That means my life now encompasses so many more people, philosophies and policies.”
The one-time Chicago resident said her son’s passion for Republican politics may have been rooted in her own disgust of the administration of Democrat Richard J. Daley, who was mayor of Chicago from 1955-76.
The sight of watching her four sons, including Mike and Gregory, riding wagons in a 1964 campaign parade for GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was going through her mind during the event in Edinburgh, she said.
Pride seeped into Fritsch’s final comment about her candidate son.
“Michael has always aspired to do something great for our country, and I know he’ll do a phenomenal job,” Fritsch said.