A triumphant Gov. Mike Pence returned to Indianapolis on Thursday night for the first time since being elected vice president.
A crowd of several hundred cheering supporters greeted him as he descended from his campaign jet about 6 p.m. outside a private hangar at Indianapolis International Airport. A high school marching band from Plainfield heralded his arrival with a rendition of (Back Home Again in) Indiana.
“You did it!” one supporter shouted.
Pence thanked his family, elected officials and Hoosiers in general for their support during an eight-minute speech.
“The example of the people of Indiana, the example of the state of Indiana and the leadership you asked for carried us to this position,” Pence said, “and I promise you every day we will work our hearts out to make Indiana proud.”
He urged the audience to support President-elect Donald Trump as he transitions into office and asked them to “pray that we may renew the American dream.”
He concluded with a promise that he would never forget Indiana, “wherever my duties take me as vice president of the United States of America.”
Among those in the audience was Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, who spoke on the phone with Pence earlier in the day about “the whirlwind him and his family have been through over the past day.”
“It was great to have him take a curtain on home turf,” Bosma said.
Earlier in the day, Pence returned to Capitol Hill, where he spent 12 years as a congressman before becoming Indiana’s governor in 2012. He and Trump had lunch with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. The three men then went to Ryan’s office and looked down on the U.S. Capitol grounds from his balcony, where Trump and Pence will take their oaths of office Jan. 20.
Pence is expected to play an important role in the Trump administration. Pence, a former six-term congressman, will be “essential for the new president, who doesn’t have experience in Washington,” outgoing U.S. Sen. Dan Coats said Thursday from the tarmac as the crowd waited for Pence’s arrival.
Coats described the “welcome home” event as both a homecoming and “a send-off.”
“Anybody here believe you would be standing here at this moment to welcome home the next vice president of the United States here from Indiana?” he asked the crowd.
Trump and Pence won Indiana with a decisive 57% of the vote. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine received 38%. The resounding win helped Republicans sweep all statewide offices, including the U.S. Senate seat and the governor’s office.
Follow Tony Cook on Twitter: @indystartony
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