Born June 7, 1959, Michael Richard Pence is one of six children born to Nancy and Edward Pence, who ran a chain of gas stations in Columbus, Indiana. Pence is named for his grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, an Irish Catholic immigrant who became a bus driver in Chicago, Illinois, after arriving in the United States.
In his early life, Pence was Catholic and a volunteer for the Bartholomew County Democratic Party, voting for Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election. Pence was inspired to become a politician by Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. At Hanover College, where Pence earned his Bachelor’s degree in history, he became a born-again evangelical Christian and his political views began to become more conservative; He credited the influence of Ronald Reagan.
Pence earned his law degree from Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law in 1986 and spent some time as a private practice attorney before running unsuccessfully for congressional seats in 1988 and 1990. In 1991, he became president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. Pence then began to host a radio talk-show out of Rushville, Indiana, called The Mike Pence Show.
Pence received criticism for his use of negative advertisements as part of his 1990 campaign, for which he apologized in a 1991 essay entitled “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner.” He won his first seat as Indiana’s 2nd congressional representative in 2000. Pence belonged to the Tea Party caucus and described himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” Reelected four times, Pence established himself as having strong conservative convictions. He occasionally opposed legislation supported by then President George W. Bush, such as the No Child Left Behind Act and the expansion of prescription drugs covered by Medicare.
In 2006, after two years as chairman of the Republican Study Committee in the House, Pence ran for minority leader, losing to Representative John Boehner. He became the Republican Conference Chairman in 2009, running unopposed and elected unanimously. Pence spent 12 years in the House before becoming governor of Indiana in a close election in 2012.
As governor, Pence worked to balance the state’s budget, cutting millions from colleges and universities, the Department of Correction, and the Family and Social Services Administration while maintaining Indiana’s AAA credit rating. He cut state taxes, blocked local governments from requiring businesses to offer higher wages or benefits beyond federal requirements, and repealed a law requiring construction companies to pay prevailing wages on publicly funded projects. He supported significant increases in funding for school voucher programs, charter schools, and pre-schools, and clashed with teachers unions and supporters of public school.
Pence was a supporter of the coal industry in Indiana, as well as an advocate for gun rights. His Christian faith shaped his staunchly conservative views; Pence was known as a fiscal and social conservative, supporting strict immigration policies and abstinence education and opposing abortion and efforts to expand LGBT civil rights.
In July 2016, Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, announced that he had chosen Pence as his vice presidential running mate. Pence suspended his 2016 gubernatorial campaign to join Trump on the campaign trail. Early in the Trump administration, Vice President Pence had to cast an historic tie-breaking vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as the U.S. secretary of education.