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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 —

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.”

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