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Businessman announces run for Indiana governor

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INDIANAPOLIS — Republican businessman Jim Wallace, who kicked off his 2012 campaign for governor Tuesday, admits he has less name recognition and fundraising prowess than GOP frontrunner U.S. Rep. Mike Pence.

Both want to replace current Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who cannot seek a third consecutive term under state law. Despite facing a steep uphill battle, Wallace said he offers voters a perspective that Pence doesn't have.

"He's a great voice for conservative social issues, but Indiana needs a business leader like Mitch to continue the strong fiscal foundation and build on that job growth," Wallace said of Pence. "We see things a little bit differently. He tends to frame things in the abstract ... I see things where the rubber meets the road."

Wallace is the founder of TWG Capital Inc., which provides financing to insurance agents and companies. He's a former member of the Hamilton County and Fishers councils and has been attending county Republican Party events across the state in recent months discussing a possible run for the governor's office. Wallace kicked off his campaign Tuesday afternoon at the Fishers Town Hall.

Pence, a former radio talk show host who was elected to his sixth term in Congress last November and announced his gubernatorial bid last week, has national fundraising ability and much better name recognition than Wallace. Pence is a tea party favorite and outspoken voice for social conservatives.

"Wallace's view obviously brings into focus the schism in the Republican Party between the fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives," said Brian Vargus, a political analyst at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Even if Wallace could get the money needed to boost his name recognition, Vargus said, voters who turn out for primary elections tend to be more politically committed, such as tea party voters and social conservatives who feel strongly about their top issues. All of which tips the tables toward Pence, he said.

When asked whether Wallace could be a potential lieutenant governor under Pence, Wallace said he's focused on the governor's race now.

But he added: "One never knows."

Vargus said Wallace doesn't seem like a good match for Pence, who would likely want to surround himself with people who have the same philosophical views as he has.

As the campaign moves forward, one incident from 2004 could come into play. Wallace said he made the comment "you're dead" to his estranged wife during a custodial exchange of their son when they were getting a divorce. A misdemeanor intimidation charge was later dropped in the course of the divorce, and Wallace said he and his ex-wife are now better friends and better parents. He said he's not proud of the incident, but isn't ashamed to talk about it and said divorce brings out the worst in people.

Daniels is expected to announce in coming weeks whether he'll run for president. Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman is not seeking the governor's office.

For Democrats, former House Speaker John Gregg is considered a leading potential candidate. Gregg has said he plans to form an exploratory committee but hasn't made a formal announcement yet. Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson of Bloomington has also been mentioned as a candidate. Former Sen. Evan Bayh and Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel both have declined to run, and U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly had said earlier this year that he may consider running for governor, but instead decided to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Richard Lugar.


Wallace campaign: www.wallaceforgovernor.com

AP reporter Deanna Martin can be reached at http://twitter.com/deanna_martin