Gregg picks Simpson to add balance to ticket

May 22, 2012

 Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg reached out to his party's base Tuesday with his pick for lieutenant governor, a liberal lawmaker with decades of experience at the Indiana Statehouse.

Gregg tapped Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson as his running mate Tuesday. The addition of Simpson, an abortion-rights supporter, to the Democratic ticket should shore up support for Gregg among liberal Democrats and prompt Democratic donors turned off by his anti-abortion stance and opposition to same-sex marriage to open up their wallets.

"I think the fact John reached out to me to be on the ticket speaks very highly of him and his desire to have people of different perspectives and different viewpoints at the table. He expressed to me in very clear words that he does not want to be a yes man." Simpson said Tuesday outside the Statehouse.

Gregg got his biggest applause from the crowd Tuesday when he played up their joint support for women's access to health care, which has become a national talking point for Democrats.

"I wanted someone like me who recognized that women's access to health is not an issue of pro-life or pro-choice, but that it is a question of access to health care," he said.

Gregg's announcement comes one day after Republican candidate Mike Pence added state Rep. Sue Ellspermann to his ticket. The two campaigns' announcements virtually guarantee Indiana will have its third consecutive female lieutenant governor.

Libertarian Rupert Boneham is running with Brad Klopfenstein.

Pence spokeswoman Christy Denault called Simpson a good choice for the opposing party. "I would like to congratulate Senator Simpson on being selected by Speaker Gregg as his running mate. She is worthy of being her party's nominee for Lt. Governor," Denault said in a brief written statement.

Simpson, at one time a strong contender for governor in her own right, has deep roots among the party's liberal base. That could help Gregg smooth over some stumbles made during the start of his run for governor.

Perhaps the worst of those stumbles was a statement from Gregg issued just hours after Indiana became the 23rd state to enact right-to-work legislation vehemently opposed by unions in which he said it was time to move on. The AFL-CIO declined to issue a primary endorsement for Gregg last month, even though the group issued primary endorsements for other uncontested Democrats like Senate candidate Joe Donnelly.

"Vi brings not just the women, but she brings a whole segment if the community that felt that they did not have a voice and would not be represented," said Rep. Charlie Brown, a Gary Democrat who began serving in the House two years before Simpson joined the Senate.

Brown also highlighted her ability to raise money for Gregg, who has been easily outgunned by Pence and Indiana Republicans in the money race.

Simpson will be giving up the state Senate seat she has held since 1984 to run with Gregg. Republicans and Democrats are scheduled to cement their tickets for governor at their respective party conventions next month.

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