Commentary

Hard-right turn for Lt. Gov. Crouch

June 2, 2023 7:00 am
women

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch speaks at the national FFA convention earlier this year. (Photo from Lt. Governor’s Office)

The Suzanne Crouch I have covered for more than a decade has never really been about politics — she has been about moving the state forward. That’s why the Suzanne Crouch running for governor has given me a bit of whiplash.

In the past, she has focused on practical changes to government that would help Hoosiers, whether that’s a transparency portal for statewide financial data or bringing her personal perspective to a fight for mental health funding. Crouch has been a strong supporter of local communities and unabashedly used words like cooperation and collaboration.

She still does those things, to be sure. But the hard-right turn is clear as she battles two other Republicans — the socially conservative U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden — for the 2024 nomination, glomming onto national GOP talking points and issues.

It’s possible she’s had these beliefs all along. But it seems more like a purposeful move to try to shore up support from hard-line conservatives.

Born and raised in Evansville, Crouch graduated from Mater Dei High School and received an undergraduate political science degree from Purdue University. She was a Vanderburgh County commissioner, a member of the Indiana House of Representatives and state auditor before being elected lieutenant governor in 2016.

“We’re working hard to create opportunities for Hoosiers as we renew our commitment to job creation, smart investment and education policy,” Crouch said in 2019. “Our state’s greatest challenges are our biggest focus.”

Checking the boxes

But some recent remarks from Crouch’s campaign Twitter account take a harder stance. It’s almost like someone has a check-list somewhere of conservative, hot-button topics she must weigh in on.

The U.S.-Mexico border: “President Biden and his Democrat puppets don’t care if our Southern border is secure,” Crouch tweeted recently. She said Biden’s border policy is a “Democrat voter registration drive masquerading as an immigration policy.”

Pronouns: “[House Enrolled Act] 1608, which passed this session, gives parents their God-given rights and authority when it comes to raising their children.”

ESG: “I strongly support [House Bill] 1008, which directs the Indiana Public Retirement board to refrain from making investments based on #woke ideologies. We let the free market determine the highest rate of return for our public employees’ pensions.”

Donald Trump: “It is clear that Joe Biden and the Democrats will stop at nothing when it comes to weaponizing government against Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton started it seven years ago, and they haven’t stopped since. Political persecution has no place in government.”

Voucher expansion: “Parents deserve choice in their children’s education. I applaud the actions of the Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly for their courageous vote this session. For our state to continue its current prosperity, we need to improve and invest in our families’ education options and this new law does both.”

Taxes: “Lawmakers agreed this legislative session to launch a study of the property tax system and consider eliminating the income tax. As Governor, I will continue to work to lower your taxes even more.”

When a longtime politician shifts their tone, it’s confusing for voters. Who is she and which persona reflects her actual views? The practical workhorse who cares about Hoosiers and will work in a bipartisan way to get things done, or the peacocking politician scoring points?

This is probably just a primary strategy to get past Braun – and she’s far from the first to use it. It remains to be seen if she can be both types of candidate.

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Niki Kelly
Niki Kelly

Niki has covered the Indiana Statehouse since 1999 – including five governors. She has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists and Hoosier State Press Association for stories on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, criminal justice issues and more. She also is a regular on Indiana Week in Review, a weekly public television rundown of news. She shifts her career to helm a staff of three and ensure Hoosiers know what’s really happening on the state level.

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