WASHINGTON – Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) will run for governor of Indiana next year, he announced Thursday.

Pence, a congressman since 2001 and former chairman of the House Republican Conference, is the favorite to replace Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), whose two terms expire in 2012.

"The work isn't over," Pence said, according to The Associated Press. "To keep Indiana growing, Hoosiers know we must have principled leadership at every level to make the right choices."

The Indiana Republican has positioned himself as a conservative stalwart in line with tea party values. This year he authored the House-approved measure to defund Planned Parenthood.

Indiana's Democratic Party immediately pounced after the announcement.

"Congressman Pence has spent a decade in Congress focusing on divisive issues rather than working for the people of Indiana," the party said in a statement. "He has advocated shutting down the government over partisan squabbles, eliminating Medicare as we know it and giving tax breaks to oil companies profiting off high gas prices."

[Via David Catanese]