Who is Jamie Reitenour? Indianapolis mom mobilized volunteers to make governor’s ballot

Jamie Reitenour, Republican candidate for Indiana governor, talks to supporters at an April 11 campaign event. (Credit: Rory Appleton)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in a series of profiles of the candidates running for Indiana governor.

ZIONSVILLE, Ind. — It wasn’t the largest campaign event the 2024 election cycle is likely to see. 

About 15 people, some of them children, gathered on a rainy April night at Our Place Coffee, nestled just feet from the watchful eye of Zionsville’s Abraham Lincoln mural. But Republican gubernatorial candidate Jamie Reitenour, an Indianapolis mom with no previous political experience, spoke with every single one of them.

It was one part coffee-and-issues politicking and one part informal Bible study, complete with scripture quiz questions for the kids in attendance. 

Reitenour, well-worn Bible in hand, shared her oft-repeated story of being called by God to run for governor about six years ago — a destiny confirmed by friends and strangers alike along the way, she said. This charge, she told the group, would allow her to rise above traditional campaign currency, such as fundraising dollars and polling numbers. 

Suzanne and Shon Hough sponsored the event after meeting Reitenour at their shared church, Horizon Christian Fellowship in Lawrence. 

“As soon as we met her, we knew this is someone to support,” Suzanne Hough said. “We knew she wasn’t a politician. She was called. She has a love and compassion for people.”

That is how Reitenour has made it this far — how she gathered the 4,500 state-mandated signatures to qualify for the May 7 primary ballot, how she’s made it onto a stage filled with more experienced and wealthier opponents. For more than a year, she’s hosted several small events per week throughout the state, traveling some 35,000 miles, by her count. 

The dozen or so latte-sipping supporters had a part to play, the candidate said. 

“Go to your contact lists and tell them about our Facebook,” Reitenour said. “We could reach 144 people today if we all did that.”

The call

Reitenour’s purpose changed in 2017 while walking through downtown Indianapolis with her husband, Nathan. 

“I just heard a whisper: You’re going to be the governor of Indiana,” Reitenour told State Affairs. 

The couple wandered over to the governor’s mansion. 

“We looked at it and thought, ‘That does not look like our family,’” she recalled. “So I just put the calling on the shelf.” 

Indiana requires gubernatorial candidates to have lived in the state for at least five years. She had only just moved from Michigan. 

Reitenour believed the country was in a good spot under then-President Donald Trump. Why would she need to run?

“I just thought about it,” Reitenour said. “Why would the Lord call an ordinary person to something like that when the nation was doing so well? But the reality of scripture is that you see these times where people are called, and you can see the reasons for the calling around them.”

Her regular Bible contemplation soon took her to the Book of Nehemiah, who was a governor. Another sign, she said. 

The state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic set off alarm bells for Reitenour, who considered steps like mask requirements an affront to personal liberty. She brings up the subject often, and it made it into her coffeehouse remarks. 

“How am I in a conservative state, but I don’t feel free?” she told the crowd. 

Indiana gubernatorial candidate Jamie Reitenour hosts an April 11 campaign event at Our Place Coffee in Zionsville. (Credit: Rory Appleton)

After COVID-19 and the election of President Joe Biden, Reitenour began to think more seriously about running for governor. 

Her mission was affirmed first by a close friend, whom Reitenour said received a similar calling from God to help her candidacy, and then by strangers, whom she said confirmed her destiny during separate chance meetings at a Panera Bread location.

She began to meet with church groups and advocacy organizations that align with her views, including Moms for Liberty and Indiana Right to Life. Despite being referred to as an activist on the campaign trail, Reitenour said she is not part of any activism group. 

Getting on the ballot

This network of like-minded supporters would soon serve as the volunteer arm of Reitenour’s campaign. 

Indiana requires candidates for governor to collect at least 4,500 signatures from voters, including at least 500 from each of the state’s nine congressional districts. It’s a tall order even for seasoned politicians, who often hire specialized operatives for the task. 

“The mystery of how we did that will also be the mystery of how we win,” Reitenour said. 

She focused on growing supporters and gathering signatures at each small event she hosted, then mobilizing those attendees to gather still more for her. 

“I had a formula in my heart for this that the Lord gave me at 4 a.m. one morning,” she said. 

The campaign

Reitenour made the ballot, but she is the least-known candidate in a field that includes Sen. Mike Braun, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, former state Attorney General Curtis Hill, former state Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers and Eric Doden, a Fort Wayne businessman and previous president of the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

She has no previous political experience. She is a stay-at-home mom who also homeschools her five children and volunteers through ministry. Her previous work experience includes compliance management at a mortgage company, secretarial work and even a stint as an assistant coach in women’s field hockey.

Reitenour was selected in the governor’s race by just 2% of respondents in a recent State Affairs/Howey Politics Indiana poll, tying her with Hill for last place behind front-runner Braun (44%). She has consistently polled in the low single digits. 

While other gubernatorial candidates can draw from years of campaign fundraising experience or millions in personal finances, Reitenour had raised just a little more than $54,000 as of March 31. 

She has thus found herself paddling in a proverbial ocean of campaign spending. 

The four top-polling candidates — Braun, Chambers, Doden and Crouch — have spent a combined $20 million.

After participating in the first gubernatorial debate on March 11, Reitenour did not qualify for a March 27 debate hosted by WISH-TV due to her fundraising numbers, as the television station required candidates to have raised $300,000 by December. 

She was also excluded from a March 26 Fox59/CBS4 debate for not reaching a 5% polling threshold. She will be included in the final April 23 debate, hosted by the Indiana Debate Commission. 

Reitenour has campaigned using a constantly shuffling group of volunteers. She has only one full-time employee: campaign assistant Casey Pierce, who met Reitenour through his mother’s church. 

“It just felt like the right thing to do,” Pierce said of joining the campaign. He has never worked in politics before. 

Pierce called his initial meeting with Reitenour “a Holy Spirit encounter.”

Reitenour’s platform

Reitenour described education as the state’s “greatest vulnerability,” and thus her primary platform

“The next generation is not being educated well, and this has been a long time coming,” Reitenour said. 

She has received guidance from the Hamilton County chapter of Moms for Liberty, which made national headlines in 2023 after using a quote attributed to Adolf Hitler in its first newsletter. The nonprofit, which pushes against socially minded education reforms like critical race theory, subsequently apologized. 

Reitenour likewise opposes ideas like social-emotional learning in classrooms. Her plan also proposes removing technology from grades K-5, calling for private businesses to sponsor classrooms and requiring all students to pursue an apprenticeship before high school graduation. 

She also favors an audit of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., tax cuts, a focus on investing in small towns and generally “pointing Indiana in the direction of family.”

The future

At her coffee shop appearance, Reitenour shied away from admitting her long odds in the race. 

“The political system is meant to squeeze people out, but I am working against it,” she said. 

She pledged to continue organizing no matter the primary election results. 

About Reitenour
  • Age: 44
  • Hometown: Indianapolis
  • Education: Psychology degree from Missouri State University
  • Family: Married to Nathan Reitenour, with five children, ages 13, 11, 10, 9 and 4
  • Job: Stay-at-home mom, homeschool teacher
  • Work history: Former compliance manager at Windsor Capital Mortgage, former athletic director at Calvary Christian School (at Calvary Chapel Vista church in California)

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