Once it was announced that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley would be the speaker for the GOP Fall Dinner, organizers expected some high demand.
But Jeff Cardwell, chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, said he was surprised to see such a quick sellout and long wait list for spots at the Oct. 27 dinner at the Ritz Charles in Carmel.
“The excitement is electric right now,” he said.
Part of the reason for the high turnout is because Haley is seen as a popular figure among conservative voters. She’s the first female and the first minority governor in South Carolina and is the youngest governor in the country at age 43. She received praise by many media pundits for her handling of the Confederate Flag controversy earlier this year. Under her term, South Carolina hit a record low in its jobless rate and 25,000 South Carolinians have moved from welfare to work.
She’s currently leading relief efforts after a flooding disaster in her state.
“She’s a rising star within the Republican Party nationally and she’s had some outstanding leadership moments nationally,” Cardwell said. “We want to shine a spotlight on that leadership. She’s doing a fantastic job working with a lot of government agencies and nonprofits to attend to the needs of her state.”
Cardwell said the Indiana Republican Party is also playing a role in relief efforts, just as it has with other past disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina. It is partnering with the Midwest Food Bank to provide supplies, and Cardwell said the Indiana GOP has sent three trucks. He said that effort will be continued on the night of the dinner.
“It’s above politics,” he said. “It’s about meeting the human need. Everybody can support that.”
In addition to Haley, Indiana’s own governor, Mike Pence, will speak at the event.
Pence received some negative media attention after the Religious Freedom Restoration Act controversy earlier this year, seeing his favorability poll numbers drop around 10 percent from February to April according to some polls. Cardwell said Pence should be proud of a strong year and noted that Indiana’s unemployment rate has dipped to 4.5 percent — its lowest level since July 2007. Pence also announced this month plans to spend around $1 billion on road construction and bridge repair during the next four years.
“You’re going to hear about how we have the best unemployment rate in the Midwest and the fantastic financial situation the state is in,” Cardwell said. “It’s put us in a great position to invest in our infrastructure which is a great opportunity for the entire state.”
Cardwell said the packed house will be a perfect opportunity to harness all the energy and excitement heading into upcoming elections. It’s the biggest fundraising event of the year for the Indiana Republican Party. Tickets were sold for $150 for an individual, $350 for VIP seats and $50 for college Republicans.
“It’s the official kickoff event of the next presidential cycle,” he said. “This is a perfect storm with municipal races in November but also interest in the senate, governor and presidential races. That’s probably why there’s a great demand for this event.”