INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The official business of the Indiana Democrats’
convention Saturday may have been to formally nominate candidates for 2014,
but much of the talk was about two politicians eyeing a run for governor in
Delegates to the convention wore stickers asking former Democratic nominee
John Gregg to give it another try in 2016. Meanwhile, Hammond Mayor Tom
McDermott worked the circuit of parties Friday night talking with activists
and party leaders.
Gregg and McDermott said Saturday they are still deciding whether to take
the plunge, but are motivated by a belief that Gov. Mike Pence is more
interested in running for president than leading the state.
“He hasn’t paid attention to us since day one,” McDermott said. “He’s been
focused on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.”
Democrats awarded Beth White the nomination for secretary of state, Mike
Claytor the nomination for auditor and Mike Boland the nod for treasurer.
Indiana’s Republicans are set to formalize their picks next week in Fort
Wayne, setting up the matches for the November ballot.
But many eyes are focused on November 2016, when the governor’s office is
again on the ballot.
Any Democratic candidate would face some clear hurdles put in place by the
state’s conservative leanings and strength of its Republicans. Mitt Romney
easily beat President Barack Obama in Indiana in 2012 and Republicans
established a supermajority in the state House of Representatives for the
first time in four decades.
But Democrats pulled out a few victories, including Joe Donnelly defeating
Treasurer Richard Mourdock for the open U.S. Senate seat and Glenda Ritz
unexpectedly upsetting then-Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett.
Gregg, a former House speaker, came within three percentage points of
beating Pence, but lost. After the election, he spent some time analyzing
his campaign and appeared to withdraw from future consideration in a
statement issued last year.
“There’s a lot of people here today encouraging me to take another look at
it, but right now I’m focusing on Mike (Boland) and Mike (Claytor) - the
Mike squared ticket - and Beth White, and I’d like to see us pick up some
more legislative seats,” Gregg said Saturday.
Gregg and McDermott both have a core group of advisers helping them decide
whether to take the plunge, but both say it’s too early to make a decision.
A staffer followed Gregg around the convention Saturday as he spoke to
various groups of Democrats before taking the main stage and delivering a
campaign-style speech introducing Claytor. He got a standing ovation from
delegates when he held up a prop suitcase he said was meant for Pence, a
symbol of the amount of out-of-state traveling Pence has been doing.
"It seems the governor has been everywhere as of late, but Indiana. And it
seems like Hoosier taxpayers have been footing the bill,” Gregg said.
Democratic leaders cleared a path for Gregg in 2012, the same as they did
for then-Senate candidate Joe Donnelly. Both men avoided potentially
bruising primary battles.
But McDermott said Saturday the Democratic party needs a good primary battle
to help iron out the vulnerabilities of whoever they nominate in 2016.
McDermott, a Democratic firebrand with deep ties in the northwest region of
the state, said his style is similar to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie:
blunt and outspoken. It would be a sharp contrast to Gregg’s folksy,
“I think certain people really like people like myself, I’m not
sugar-coating everything,” he said.