By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Eric Holcomb said on a Zoom interview from Taipei last night that the abortion issue has been a hallmark of the American political debate for the past half century and will be for the next 50 years.

“That doesn’t mean we won’t take the issue up again if people think they can be more persuasive on the exceptions that you think, or people think they are for or against; and be persuasive on more vitality when life begins whether it’s eight weeks or 15 weeks or 20 weeks,” Holcomb said. “Everyone will be sharpening their story in trying to be more compelling.”

Holcomb conducted this interview Monday night with HPI and Dave Bangert, who publishes the Based in Lafayette substack site, while he was leading the latest U.S. delegation to the self-governing island amid heightened tensions with China following Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit earlier this month. Bangert focused his questions on the trip’s potential impact on Purdue University while HPI asked two questions on SEA1 that Holcomb signed into law, making Indiana one of the most restrictive states on reproductive rights.

Holcomb’s office said the delegation, which includes state and Purdue University officials, would meet with Taiwanese officials during a two-day trip to strengthen economic and academic ties. The group will then travel to Seoul, South Korea for two days. “I couldn’t be more energized to spend this week building new relationships, reinforcing long time ones and strengthening key sector partnerships with Taiwan and South Korea,” Holcomb said in a statement. “This week marks my second trip to South Korea as governor, and I am also proud to be the first U.S. governor to visit Taiwan since before the COVID-19 pandemic,” he continued. “I’m committed to building an economy of the future with these global partners who are helping propel Indiana forward by creating tomorrow’s businesses, today.” 

The trip comes after Taiwanese semiconductor giant MediaTek in June announced a partnership with Purdue University to create a new semiconductor design center.

Holcomb emphasized the economic nature of his visit, noting that his state is among the top in the U.S. for direct foreign investment and home to 10 Taiwanese companies. “We both seek to deepen and enhance our already excellent cooperation that we’ve established over the years,” he said. 

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen acknowledged the tensions in her opening remarks with Holcomb. “Taiwan has been confronted by military threats from China, in and around the Taiwan Strait. At this moment, democratic allies must stand together and boost cooperation in all areas,” she said.

Here is the Howey/Bangert interview with Gov. Holcomb:

Howey: Governor, both public and many of us suspect that internal Republican polling revealed most Hoosiers oppose first trimester abortion restrictions. Then came the Kansas referendum, which lost 59-41%. Why did most Republican legislators reject the stances of most Hoosiers and why did you sign SEA1?

Holcomb: Because they and I did what we would do what we said we we would do. I think the bigger story would have been if Republicans answered the question one way before the big vote and then voted differently. That would be a story. These folks were elected – not on a single issue – but multiple issues and that’s when you step into a voting booth, you are voting on a number of issues that you feel important, that that representative will be a champion of, or fight against, depending on how you look at it. At the end of the day, I signed it because I thought it was progress. Having said that, I think that this issue for the last 50 years has been debated. It was rightfully sent back to states; there are other legal questions that we could go into for half an hour as I see it on this issue, but this conversation and legislative efforts will continue, I would predict, for the next 50 years as well, whether it’s in courthouses or statehouses or Congress or the federal administration. This was a vote in a two-week period and I’m sure there will be twists and turns for years to come.

Howey: Many Republican legislators wanted to end the rape and incest exceptions and I expect these to resurface in the next General Assembly session. Where do you stand on removing these exceptions? 

Holcomb: I think this is a perfect example of both sides, whether you believe it’s one life or two lives or whether you’re pro-choice or pro-life, are going to in Indiana and 49 other states are going to keep coming back to try to make it more reflect. As you know, It hasn’t been part of my agenda; it wasn’t the reason I called the legislature back into special session. But I was very upfront, saying if we can make progress in expressing the value we place on life, I would be supportive and was. That doesn’t mean we won’t take the issue up again if people think they can be more persuasive on the exceptions that you think, or people think they are for or against; and be persuasive on ... when life begins, whether it’s eight weeks or 15 weeks or 20 weeks. Everyone will be sharpening their story in trying to be more compelling. I will say that one thing I learned from sitting in that office for a two-week period and meeting people throughout the session was the necessity for civil conversation, respectful, thoughtful ... those conversations tend to be more compelling, at least to me, regardless on what side you’re on. But if we’re just spewing or shouting and screaming, people stop listening and people go into their corners and don’t keep open minds about what ever issue we’re talking about. My only request come January is that we remain respectful on this or any other issue.

Bangert: Purdue President Mitch Daniels mentioned last week that more big announcements were coming for Purdue’s Discovery Park District. Soon, he said. Are we going to hear that from you this week?

Holcomb: Well, he’s had a string of big announcements. There’s been a lot discovered. He may go down as a West Lafayette Magellan or de Gama or Prince Henry, when the tale is finally told. But, no, we’re stitching a lot together. And obviously, when you think about our progression – I remember being on campus, talking about Indiana prioritizing micro-electronics and hypersonics – here we are. Just yesterday, we met with the “godfather of semiconductors” (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. founder Morris Chang) and what they have ultimately been realized around the world. So, when you think about the Krach Institute for Tech Diplomacy (at Purdue); when you think about the semiconductor degrees, graduate level degrees; when you think about MediaTek, a design company, who is embracing an ever growing ecosystem in Tippecanoe County, in West Lafayette on campus; when you think about the already built relationships with TSMC; you think about hosting, back in May, the global economic summit where we brought a lot of these players, so to speak, into town and had meetings then, as well; we’ve created the AMPD (Accelerating Microelectronics Production & Development)  Task Force. So, in addition to having talent pipelines, being a low-cost place to do business, having a superior site or location, all of these pieces of the puzzle start to really snap together. We have now the ability to say thank you to some of the investors and be in the same room and same conversations with folks who are making investments to try to, as I said yesterday to a group, turn the supply chain pain into supply chain gain. In a state like Indiana that’s so tethered to advanced manufacturing, we’re just an ideal fit for this industry. I would beat the Purdue drum and say, “Yes, there will be more good news coming.”

Bangert: You’ve brought a whole contingent of Purdue folks with you. (Incoming Purdue President) Mung Chiang is going to be there later in the week. How did you pull that together? This has to be a pretty big purpose pitch.

Holcomb: There was no twisting of any Boilermaker arms. They were champing at the bit. Obviously, we’re working together, complementing each other’s efforts. But they’re out scouting the terrain globally, nonstop, as well. So, to have the interim dean (of Engineering Mark Lundstrom), to have Mung join us in Korea, all sharing Purdue’s message, is extremely advantageous. And by the way, we’re also able to talk about Notre Dame, we’re also able to talk about Indiana University and their role in this ecosystem. And literally every other college and university in our state. Everyone will have, I would almost call it, endless opportunity to be part of this exploding sector.

Bangert: The Lafayette region had put semiconductor research and development right in the middle of its READI (Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative) grant application in 2021. You’re thinking about READI grant 2.0. Is this trip going to be something that will play into that?

Holcomb:
Absolutely. I mean, that’s kind of the bottom line. You go through, how much does it cost – anywhere in the world – how much does it cost to make chips in Asia, in Europe, in America, in the Midwest? You do that cost analysis. Another key component is the talent. And it’s got to be Ivy Tech-driven, it’s got to be Vincennes University, it’s got to be Purdue graduate degrees, electrical engineers, engineers, mechanical engineers, the whole nine yards. You’ve got to have people install the equipment in the first place. You’ve got to have the right labor mix. We have that, because we’ve done this before in different sectors, and we’re now doing it with SkyWater. But at the end of the day … businesses go where people want to be, and we are seeing our state continue to grow, and people want to be there. There’s a huge (return on investment) on programs like the READI initiative itself and improving quality of place, because everybody has skin in the game. It’s locally driven and supported by the state. These are key, whether it’s got to do with semiconductors or enhancing the (Purdue) Airport there locally, as well – something that’s also going to be a big factor, ultimately, five, 10, 20 years down the road in your region.

Bangert: What will be the measure of success on this trip? What do you have to come back with to say, “OK, this was worthwhile?”

Holcomb: The number of folks that we’re able to sit across the table with, break bread, share thoughts, explain. I never cease to be amazed about how small and interconnected the world is. And to quote a famous Hoosier, Kurt Vonnegut said: “I don’t know what it is about Hoosiers, but everywhere I go, there’s one doing something important there.” I’m paraphrasing it, I guess. (Editor’s note, for the record, Vonnegut said: “I don’t know what it is about Hoosiers, but wherever you go there is always a Hoosier doing something very important there.”) Time flies, and we have talked about folks – on this trip in 24 hours – we have talked about not just Sen. Todd Young’s role in passing the CHIPS Act, but we’ve talked about (former U.S. Rep.) Lee Hamilton’s role in global affairs and relationships, and (former U.S. Sen.) Dan Coats and a lot of our friends who have been involved, maybe two decades removed. But folks want to do business with who they trust and who they share values with. A measure of our success will be that we continue the momentum that we’re experiencing in the next couple of years. We look back on these trips – and there will be more – and say … the success will be that we truly become known as a hub of innovation in America.