INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mitch Daniels is likely one vote away from becoming the next president of Purdue University after news outlets around the state Tuesday confirmed via unnamed sources he is the final candidate standing for the post.
Meanwhile, there were no denials coming from either the governor or his office – a strong indication the reports are true.
The Purdue Board of Trustees, most of whom Daniels appointed, will make it official at 10 a.m. Thursday during a public meeting at the West Lafayette campus.
If Mitch is the person ultimately, as it appears, I think he will be a dynamic leader for Purdue, said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne. It raises their profile.
The Journal Gazette found the governor Tuesday at the Statehouse, but he would only say no comment on the possible presidency before jumping in his sport utility vehicle for his usual lunchtime gym visit.
His name has come up in recent weeks amid speculation along with others, including House Speaker Brian Bosma.
Bosma confirmed to The Journal Gazette on Tuesday morning he will not get the job. Another contender, Renu Khator, University of Houston chancellor and president, also took to Twitter to say she was not leaving her current post. France Córdova, Purdue’s 11th president, announced last July her intention to leave the office July 15.
If Daniels is named, it is unclear whether he would resign, which would give Indiana its first female governor – Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman.
Skillman suggested to a radio reporter Tuesday morning that Daniels, 63, will fulfill his term, which officially ends in January. He could leave in November, though, after voters choose the next governor.
I would be surprised if he resigned, said Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at IPFW. He doesn’t strike me as someone who would leave before his commitment was fulfilled.
Entering the world of academia would be a new endeavor for Daniels, who has teetered between government and the private sector for decades.
Downs said moving to higher education is a natural transition for government leaders who are policy experts with practical knowledge and experience.
The pace of government is also similar to academia, and political leaders bring a Rolodex of contacts that can be quite valuable to a university, he said.
Daniels began as a political aide to Richard Lugar in the Indianapolis mayor’s office and followed him to the U.S. Senate. Daniels then became a top executive at Eli Lilly & Co.
He also served two presidents, as chief political adviser for Ronald Reagan and budget director for George W. Bush.
In 2004, Daniels ran for governor and was re-elected by a wide margin in 2008.
Last year, he considered a run for the GOP presidential nomination but bowed out because of family pressure. His name has been considered as a vice presidential possibility even though he has said he doesn’t want the job.
In recent years, Daniels’ administration has reduced state funding to Purdue and other state colleges while also pressuring them to keep tuition hikes down.
Long said Daniels’ strength in the position would be his ability to network with the private sector for fundraising and competing for top research dollars.