INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosier Democrats streamed out of their biennial state convention Saturday united in the goal of ending near-total Republican control of Indiana government.
"We are going to rise up, take back our state, take back our state government and reclaim Indiana's bright future for the future generations to come," said John Gregg, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.
Two individuals with Northwest Indiana ties will play key roles in attempting to make that happen: Gregg's running mate, Indianapolis state Rep. Christina Hale, a Michigan City native; and former Lake Circuit Judge Lorenzo Arredondo, the Democratic nominee for attorney general.
Hale pledged that if she and Gregg are elected they won't be distracted by social issues, as they claimed Republican Gov. Mike Pence has been.
Instead, Hale said they will focus on finding bipartisan fixes for actual problems plaguing Indiana, such as 1 in 6 Hoosier girls being victims of sexual assault, 1 in 7 children going hungry, average wages that are $7,000 behind the rest of the country and the state's dubious distinction as America's methamphetamine capital.
"Thanks to Gov. Pence's compulsion to tell people who to love, what to do with their bodies and even where to go to the bathroom, he's embarrassed our state, he's damaged our reputation and scared off the very economic opportunity and young talent we need," Hale said.
"But, my friends, we are Hoosiers, and we won't let one man's personal ideology destroy our reputation or define our future. Together, we will elect John Gregg as our next governor and we will tackle the very real problems our state faces."
Among their solutions are state-funded pre-kindergarten for all children, more affordable college and post-secondary vocational training, greater investment in the state's roads and infrastructure, expanded rural broadband internet access, improved drug treatment programs, preserving the state's water resources and taking better care of Hoosier veterans.
"This election is about the ideas of the future versus the ideology of the past," Gregg said. "It's about practical solutions with real results versus empty rhetoric and needless political fights."
"Unlike what we see today, a Gregg/Hale administration will be lean, clean, but not mean."
Arredondo promised to bring that same spirit of practicality to the attorney general's office by terminating Indiana's incessant lawsuits against the federal government while upholding the rule of law and protecting Hoosiers from consumer scams.
"As your attorney general, I want to be an advocate for the people," Arredondo said. "These are critical times for those of us who respect our democracy and thirst for justice."
The state's longest-serving Hispanic judge told the 2,146 Democratic convention delegates how he's lived the American dream, growing up as the 10th child of immigrant parents in East Chicago where he said he learned to love his community and found a desire to help others through public service.
"This election cycle we must all stand for true and uncompromising integrity," Arredondo said.
Democrats also nominated Glenda Ritz, the state superintendent of public instruction, for a second term standing up to the Republican-controlled General Assembly on student testing, school accountability and respect for teachers.
Ritz said she is committed to extending pre-kindergarten to all 4-year-olds, replacing the state's A-F school rating system, reducing standardized testing, improving the high school graduation rate and treating teachers as professionals.
"Our schools are strongest when politics stops at the schoolyard and lets teachers teach and lets students learn," Ritz said. "Our state needs a superintendent who moves beyond ideology and politics and puts the focus where it needs to be — educating our children to be prosperous in our economy."
Indiana Republicans selected their statewide candidates June 11. They are: Pence for governor; Eric Holcomb for lieutenant governor; Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill for attorney general; and Yorktown Superintendent Jennifer McCormick for state schools chief.