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In this article, you will get all the information regarding JERRY DAVICH: Pence’s visit, cheaper gas win over this Portage mother of two | Latest Headlines
This is the only reason Jayme Wampler showed up Tuesday afternoon at Luke Convenience Store & Gas Station in Hobart. Initially it wasn’t to meet former Vice President Mike Pence. It wasn’t to flirt with 15 minutes of fame. It wasn’t to get entangled in the volatile world of partisan politics.
“Just word of mouth. My sister told me, so I came here from Meijer,” Wampler told me as her baby daughter ate pretzels in the backseat. “This is so cool, especially because gas has cost so much lately.”
When she pulled into the station, I noticed an orange sticky note on her side mirror, placed there by a staff member for Americans for Prosperity. The conservative political advocacy group hosted its True Cost of Washington Tour, visiting roughly 50 cities since May.
The sticky note signaled to other staff members that Wampler, among a handful of other random motorists, was willing to share her thoughts with Pence about high gas prices.
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“Sure, why not?” she told an AFP coordinator.
“The economy has been straight trash for the last couple of years. This will definitely help me out for the next week or so,” said Wampler, a married mother of two from Portage.
A few minutes later, she watched Pence pump gas into her vehicle as a large group of media personnel captured the exchange. Pence quickly motioned for Jennifer-Ruth Green, the Republican candidate for Indiana’s 1st Congressional District, to join them for the well-choreographed photo op.
“I actually grew up in a gas station family,” Pence told Wampler as cameras rolled from several TV news networks.
“You did?” she replied, looking around at the surreal scene outside her local gas station.
I circled around them, chatting with people, including a security guard who couldn’t resist recording a personal video of Pence’s appearance.
“I just found out he was coming here 10 minutes ago,” she said with a laugh.
The spectacle of the event is why I showed up to accompany a Times reporter who interviewed a few of the 200 or so motorists. After pumping gas for four of them, Pence and Green held a press conference in the parking lot.
“Under the Trump-Pence administration, we became energy independent for the first time in 75 years,” Pence told media members as a passing motorist honked his approval (or disapproval).
Political rhetoric flowed like discounted gas throughout his exchange with reporters. His appearance for AFP’s “True Cost” tour was a first, according to Josh Webb, Indiana’s AFP state director. A previous event in Indiana featured U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., who died in a car crash Wednesday.
The AFP’s national campaign rolls back the cost of regular gas at certain stations across the country. AFP partners with gas stations to offset the cost of regular gas to $2.38, the national average price per gallon when President Joe Biden took office, Webb said.
“We see a lot of the bad policies coming out of Washington and driving this inflationary cycle,” he said.
His organization pays about $5,000-$6,000 per event for the price difference in gas, he added. Most customers didn’t care where the money came from.
“My car is on empty and I’m just about broke,” one woman told me at the pump.
For two hours, a long line of vehicles waited along County Line Road for their opportunity to save money at the cost of only their time.
“I don’t care about politics or anything,” one man said after filling his tank.
Most of the motorists I spoke with were there for only one reason — cheaper gas — although the event was pumped with high-octane politics. U.S. Rep. Frank J. Mrvan, D-Highland, immediately jumped on what he called a stunt.
“The voters are tired of gimmicks from extreme, out-of-touch, anti-union, anti-women, anti-veteran, and anti-public education Republicans,” Mrvan said in a statement. These kind of events “accomplish absolutely nothing for the good people of this great district.”
This, of course, depends on which “good people” you’re talking about — Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. Some of the people who showed up were there strictly for the political spectacle of it, though I didn’t notice any anti-Pence protests from supporters of former President Donald Trump, as I expected.
“FOREVER TRUMP” was reflected in the rear window of a pickup truck parked in the lot. Otherwise, I didn’t see any Trump versus Pence vitriol.
At the pump, Wampler told Pence there’s more to the country’s inflation problems than just the price of gas. She said her family’s grocery store budget is being spent at gas stations, and she doesn’t qualify for financial assistance. She relies on food pantries to make up the difference.
“I think he understood, but he wanted to focus more on the gas inflation,” Wampler told me Tuesday night after multiple photos and videos of her with Pence splashed across the internet.
“My mom’s been sending me all the screenshots. So crazy!” Wampler said.
Tuesday’s event may have been a political stunt with presidential campaign ramifications, but it obviously resonates with many voters like Wampler, who simply want to be heard. This is what fuels partisan politics.
As Webb noted about cheaper gas, “Word of mouth spreads fast.”
Contact Jerry at Jerry.Davich@nwi.com or at 219-853-2563. Opinions are those of the writer.
JERRY DAVICH: Pence’s visit, cheaper gas win over this Portage mother of two | Latest Headlines
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