INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana voters were less inclined to support Republican Mike Pence and the party's incumbent state schools chief than Mitt Romney as the GOP looked to extend its dominance of state government.
Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller won a second term as the state's top lawyer in Tuesday's election.
Pence was taking on Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham in the gubernatorial election, following a campaign in which he started as the better-known candidate and had a strong fundraising advantage in the race to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels.
With about half of the statewide vote tallied, Pence had about 50 percent of the vote to about 46 percent for Gregg. That compared with about 56 percent for GOP presidential candidate Romney, who carried the state.
Republican state schools Superintendent Tony Bennett was in a tight race with Democrat Glenda Ritz in what many viewed as a referendum on the education overhauls that Bennett has pushed.
Pence has been in Congress for the past 12 years, gaining national prominence as a social conservative. He focused his campaign on economic issues and brushed off attacks suggesting that he would push contentious social issues, even as he proposed using traditional marriage as a tool to reduce poverty and improve the economy.
Gregg, a former Indiana House speaker, positioned himself as a candidate who would bring a bipartisan approach to the governor's office.
That appealed to Jordan Fischer, 25, of Indianapolis, who said he was worried about most of his friends leaving the state after college.
"I found Pence to be very divisive," Fischer said. "I found his stance on most social issues to be disagreeable."
But Daniels' popularity after his eight years as governor boosted Pence among some voters.
"A lot of it for me is feeling comfortable with Pence continuing to carry on the initiatives put in place by Gov. Daniels," said Joe Reece, a 34-year-old software salesman who was in line when the polls opened at his precinct on the north side of Indianapolis.
A bipartisan approach likely would be necessary if Gregg were to win. Republicans entered Tuesday's election holding strong majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.
Republicans were looking to win a supermajority in the 100-member Indiana House so they could conduct business even if no Democrats are present. That's an appealing prospect after two years in which Democrats walked out to stall action on the GOP-backed right-to-work law and other labor and education proposals.
Republicans had a 60-40 House advantage the past two years and need to win 67 seats to gain the two-thirds majority to thwart walkout threats from Democrats. Republicans hoped to maintain the supermajority they have in the state Senate.
Republicans won at least two House seats from Democrats, defeating Democratic Rep. Phil Pflum of Richmond and capturing an open seat given up by retiring Democratic Rep. Craig Fry of Mishawaka.
Many teachers backed Democratic candidate Ritz against Bennett, who pushed for approval of the state's private school voucher program and has overseen the first state takeover of troubled public schools. He has said he'll push for the state Board of Education to have the authority to take over entire school districts that don't meet performance standards.
Zoeller, who faced Democrat Kay Fleming, has defended in court a GOP-backed state law seeking to cut off much of Planned Parenthood's government funding because it provides abortions. He joined other Republican state attorneys general in challenging the federal health care overhaul.
Pence voted Tuesday morning at a fire station in his hometown of Columbus, where he was joined by his 18-year-old daughter, Audrey, a senior in high school who was casting her first ballot.
"I felt pretty good about her vote this morning. ... She did give me a high five when she came out of the voting booth, so I'm feeling pretty confident about her," Pence said with a laugh.