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March 19, 2013

Karen Pence forging her role as first lady

She’ll announce the issues she will champion in May

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS —

But she’s already settled comfortably into the role of a welcoming first lady. Since recovering from the emergency gall bladder surgery she underwent just days after her husband was inaugurated in January, she’s hosted nearly a dozen events at the residence, opened her own office in the Statehouse and started visiting classrooms around the state.  

“I see myself as an encourager right now,” she said.

Her husband hasn’t had an easy start in his new job. The media has criticized him for being too scripted, legislative leaders in his own party have rebuffed his signature campaign promise to cut the state’s personal income tax rate and Democrats have criticized his education budget as too meager and too focused on private-school vouchers.

Mrs. Pence is staying out of the politics of it. She defers questions about her husband’s public policies to others, tells endearingly funny stories about him as a spouse and father, and warmly greets Democrats and Republicans at the receptions she’s been hosting at their home. 

“It wouldn’t occur to us to just have the Republicans, it wouldn’t even occur to us,” she said. “You know, most of my family is Democrat. So we just don’t even think that way.” 

The Pences’ decision to move into the residence marked a departure from their immediate predecessors. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels and his wife Cheri opted to stay in their home in Carmel, while using the governor’s residence as place for official social functions. 

The house is large, at more than 10,000 square feet. But much of it is public space, open for tours and used for meetings. Upstairs is the private space where the Pences live full-time now with their youngest, who is in high school; two older children are in college. 

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