In early January, Howey Politics Indiana put Gov. Pence at top of its annual HPI Power 50 list. Karen Pence was on the power list, too, with a description that began: “Multiple Republican sources tell us that the incoming first lady will take more of an activist, Judy O’Bannon-type role during her husband’s first term.”
That prediction is coming true. Mrs. Pence and Judy O’Bannon, the well-known widow of Democratic Gov. Frank O’Bannon, have become fast friends. Before the Pences moved into the residence — where the O’Bannons once lived — the two women met for lunch.
Mrs. Pence came away with a “whole notebook of notes,” she said, and kind feelings for the former first lady: “I told her, ‘I want to be like you when I grow up.’ ”
When her husband was in the U.S. House of Representatives, Mrs. Pence ran an orientation program for the spouses of newly elected members to Congress.
Her advice to those spouses: “I always told them, ‘There’s no ‘right’ way. You just have to be yourself.’ ”
That’s the advice she’s heard from several of Indiana’s former first ladies with whom she’s met.
“They all had same message,” she said. “Just be yourself.”