By Dan Carden

Gov. Mike Pence is putting aside, for now, any dreams of national office, and will announce next month he is running in 2016 for a second four-year term as Indiana's chief executive.

Jeff Cardwell, chairman of the Indiana Republican Party and a former Pence aide, told reporters Monday that Pence will kick off his re-election bid June 18 during a party fundraiser in Indianapolis.

"We are excited the governor will formally announce his plans to seek re-election during our annual spring dinner, and we look forward to hearing his ideas for the future of our great state," Cardwell said. "Gov. Mike Pence is a conservative leader and dedicated public servant who always puts Indiana first."

Pence generally has been coy about his ambitions since taking office in 2013 following five terms in the U.S. House -- repeatedly declaring he only was focused on Indiana "and we'll let my future take care of itself."

But the man who once considered running for president in 2012 did take numerous steps as governor suggesting a potential 2016 run, including rejecting any legislation that appeared to be a tax increase, participating in regular meetings with major GOP donors and influencers, such as publisher Steve Forbes, and visiting U.S. allies in Israel, Great Britain, Japan, China, Germany and Canada.

However, Pence's rising star seemed to flame out following the national uproar prompted by his March 26 signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Many Americans believed the law was a license to discriminate against homosexuals and joined a worldwide "Boycott Indiana" movement days before Indianapolis was to host the NCAA Final Four men's basketball tournament.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly quickly approved and Pence signed a "fix" for the law that specifically prohibited its use for denying services based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but that angered Pence's social conservative allies who claimed the law was not discriminatory and did not need to be fixed.

Public opinion polls of Indiana voters taken after the "religious freedom" debacle found Pence's job approval had plummeted to 45 percent, with 46 percent disapproving. In February, his approval rating stood at 65 percent.

The governor hinted on April 30 that "we've been certainly preparing to seek re-election over the last two years," but Cardwell's announcement is the first confirmation Pence will.

Several Republicans reportedly are considering challenging Pence in a primary election, and at least two Democrats -- his 2012 opponent John Gregg and state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes -- are vying to face him in the general election.

(c)2015 The Times (Munster, Ind.)