UPDATE: McCormick faces uphill battle in race for Indiana governor

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Jennifer McCormick, a Democrat, announced her candidacy for Indiana governor at the Twin Lions wine bar in her hometown of New Castle, May 4, 2023. (Peter Blanchard/IBJ photo)

Inside a rustic bar in her hometown of New Castle, Jennifer McCormick, the former Republican state superintendent of public instruction who switched to the Democratic Party in 2021, announced Thursday that she will run for governor, becoming the first Democrat to enter the race.

In a speech announcing her candidacy, McCormick, 53, touched on her roots in rural Henry County and voiced concerns about divisive politics at the Indiana Statehouse, the state of Indiana’s infrastructure and the plight of public education.

McCormick, who formed an exploratory committee for governor late last year, has a long road ahead of her in a deeply red state that hasn’t elected a Democratic official to statewide office since 2012 or as governor since 2000. She’s spent the last several months traveling the state and speaking at Democratic and public education advocacy events.

“Everywhere I visit, no matter where I go, one thing is clear: Hoosiers do not recognize the out-of-touch divisiveness coming out of the Statehouse,” McCormick told reporters gathered at Twin Lions, a former gymnasium that was converted to a wine bar that she invoked as a symbol of revitalization efforts happening in towns and cities across the state.

In a campaign video, McCormick also touched on her roots in New Castle, a city of 17,000 that was once home to a booming Chrysler factory, and criticized state lawmakers for passing an abortion ban, repealing the state’s handgun permit requirement despite opposition from state police and keeping Indiana’s gasoline taxes among the highest in the country.

With no other Democrat expressing interest in the race, McCormick appears to have an easy path to a primary victory, though she’ll face a well-funded GOP candidate in the 2024 election.

On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden have already amassed millions of dollars for their respective gubernatorial campaigns to replace Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who can’t seek a third term due to term limits.

McCormick’s exploratory campaign account reported about $40,000 in cash as of Dec. 31.

By law, statewide candidates aren’t allowed to fundraise during the legislative session, which ended April 27.

A former special education and language arts teacher, McCormick worked her way up in the Yorktown school district near Muncie, becoming an elementary school principal and school superintendent before running for statewide office.

McCormick was elected to become the Indiana superintendent of public instruction in 2016 after successfully defeating Democrat Glenda Ritz, who at the time was the only Democratic statewide elected official.

During her 2016 campaign, McCormick criticized Ritz, who often clashed with then-Gov. Mike Pence and his appointees on the Indiana State Board of Education over the direction of education policy in the state.

“The politics have got to be left out of it,” McCormick said at the time. “It’s time to move forward. It’s time to communicate and collaborate and play nice.”

But after getting elected, McCormick found herself in many of the same squabbles, as Holcomb, Republican legislators and education policymakers emphasized standardizing testing to rate schools and teachers and directed more funding to charter schools and private schools that receive taxpayer dollars through the state’s voucher program.

The Republican supermajority in the Indiana legislature responded in 2019 by changing the office to an appointed position, ensuring that McCormick would be the last publicly elected education chief.

She opted not to seek a second term, and in 2020, she openly criticized Holcomb and campaigned for his Democratic challenger Woody Myers.

Indiana Republicans were quick to denounce McCormick’s decision to run.

“With her campaign launch today, Democrat Jennifer McCormick has decided to continue her well-known streak of misleading Hoosiers. But they have come to know that’s just who she is—someone who will say or do anything to get elected,” Indiana GOP chair Kyle Hupfer said in a statement.

When asked how she intended to court support from centrists and members of her former party, McCormick said Hoosiers were ready for change and “common sense and bipartisanship.”

McCormick also vowed to visit all 92 counties, a strategy employed by Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott in his failed run for U.S. Senate in 2022 in which he lost badly to incumbent Republican Sen. Todd Young.

“It’s not the total plan, but obviously you’ve got to visit all 92 counties because all 92 counties have voices that deserve to be heard,” McCormick said. “But we also have to have a path to victory. We have to have an amazing team. We have to have a ground operation that has not been seen in Indiana from the Democratic Party in some time.”

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29 thoughts on “UPDATE: McCormick faces uphill battle in race for Indiana governor

  1. I’m excited by Dr. McCormick’s candidacy and the real possibility of her being our state’s next Governor. Having a pro-public education Governor, who actually knows how to act as an executive officer for the betterment of all our citizens and not as some idealogue, will be a refreshing change. Plus, Indiana is one of only 18 states that has never had a female governor. It’s long past time to change that.

    1. While opinions are welcome, indiana politics continues to attack the welfare of women and children. That needs to stop. The war on women and children is harming the future of kids in Indiana. All of our efforts should benefit not harm dependent age children first.

    1. A lot of folks have been left behind by the rightward lurch of today’s Indiana Republican Party.

      The remaining members of the Indiana Democratic Party, all of whom could take the same school bus to the Statehouse since there are so few, have not yet done a comparative leftward lurch.

    2. Mike S., voters have long been confronting “the lesser of two evils” when casting their ballots. Since 2016, it’s been clear that the GOP national and in Indiana was establishing itself as the greater “evil” on most issues. In my opinion, what truly makes sense is voting a straight party ticket, which assumes all candidates of one political stripe are equally better than any of their opponents.

  2. More power to you…from what I saw, you stood up for what you believed to be right. Glad you had the smarts to say this isn’t the Republican party that I believed in previously. They have become way too right…What are your feelings regarding a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body… gun permits. It seems that it’s safe to remain in the womb, but as soon as you’re out, there are guns/assault weapons waiting for you.

  3. Michael, shouldn’t we want the best candidate to win and be the Chief Executive of Indiana instead of “just being a female”? (Even funnier that we probably don’t even agree what a female is defined as.) I don’t really think the voters of this state which, is over whelming conservative, are reading to vote for a teacher’s union shill wanting to tamp down 2nd amendment laws. I doubt she will even be the Liberal Representative in the general election.

    1. DonALD, you win today’s prize for adhering to the rightwing ideology that is destined to doom the GOP. I understand that change doesn’t come easy for you. But the view out the front windshield is vastly more expansive than the one in your rear view mirror.

    2. Teachers union shill … yes, the teachers union is the fault of everything.

      How come the police union never gets blamed for crime numbers but the teachers union gets blamed for poor educational outcomes, despite the fact no one has listened to the teachers union in 15 years?

    3. It’s truly fascinating watching the party whose dominance is almost complete in urban centers, advocating for gun control at the same time that they’ve advocated for a “reimagining” (translate to “defunding” or, at the very least, a “defanging”) of police…all while crime rates have risen at rates never before recorded. Sure, they’re only at 1988 levels in a few cities…so far. But how on earth do these big brained people with them thar fancy degrees ‘n stuff think we’re supposed to defend ourselves as they continue to tilt at windmills for the much-fabled “root causes of crime”?

      I never thought of myself as a gun nut, but I definitely see the conditions in downtown Indy (or Chicago, or Cincy, or Columbus, or Louisville) and feel far less confident that there’s a basic culture of surveillance to stop ne’er-do-wells. And, based on the sale of guns and bullets, I’m not alone.

      Brent, since you’re so much smarter than an extremist like me, what is YOUR suggestion so I can feel safe going to get my prescription every quarter at Walgreens, when on three separate occasions I’ve seen people stealing make-up with no fear of repercussion? I mean, I’ve already switched my preferred drugstore location to outside Indy limits, which is a given. But what else should imbeciles like me do, other than not be so stupid, which I can’t help?

  4. Good Morning Brent, welcome to the discussion. I assume by rear view mirror you are referring to a democratic party that used to regularly win statewide elections in Indiana. Having democratic Governers, many I have seen in my lifetime made the process better. But which party became so radical that we won’t see that again for a while? Have a good day, the weather is finally turning the calendar.

    1. Yes, that dangerous radical John Gregg.

      Joe Donnelly.

      And that Destiny Wells, the military intelligence officer and lawyer? Such a dangerous radical that voters had no choice but to pick Diego Morales, the guy who couldn’t even hack it through basic training but apparently still claims to be a military vet.

      Make the Chicago Seven look like Our Gang, indeed.

  5. Brent – How is Donald’s ideology going to doom the GOP and how can you understand he’s opposed to change by 3-4 sentences? Talking about shooting from the hip. SMH

  6. Joe B – You forgot we blame teachers for using their positions of power to take advantage of our children. The pedophiles we read about daily is mind blowing. Oh wait, teachers made a special needs student eat his own vomit? There is much more to teachers than them not providing the proper education outcomes. Give me a break.

    1. People with positions of power abuse them and should be held to account.

      Like cops who shoot unarmed civilians and have a police union claim they’re just doing their jobs.

      Not sure about the rest of you, but the spring of 2020 proved to me that teaching kids is a heck of a lot harder than people act like it is.

    2. Joe–can we then agree that, if it’s necessary for cops to carry bodycams (a position I’m perfectly fine with) we also require cameras in every classroom? Cameras are a great way of helping keep people honest…or accountable, at the very least. Given that the instance of a cop shooting an unarmed black person becomes headline news within 24 hours (6th page news when it’s other races) and this happens between 5 and 15 times a year, is it safe to assume that teacher malfeasance is much less common and that’s why we don’t have cameras? It certainly doesn’t comport with the number of teachers blithely announcing their subversive attempt on Tiktok videos, which usually amounts to about 2-3 teachers appearing daily. A drop in the bucket when it comes to all teachers overall, but frequent enough that we can’t exactly say it’s “virtually unheard of”.

      Teaching kids is certainly a lot harder when we literally implement programs rooted in “equity” that do exactly what Orwell articulated in a book we had to read in 8th grade but is probably way too heteronormative for today’s classrooms. If some pubescent porcines are more equal than others, what would stop them from behaving like feral children? And this ethos, largely amplified through our dearly beloved unions (the public sector unions being the only ones modern Dems seem to embrace), is permeating to schools across the country. With schools more prone to violence than ever, and neither party seeming to offer reasonable solutions, is there a chance that the overwhelmingly leftie ethos motivating the unions might need at least a tiny bit of self-reflection?

    3. The Indiana teachers unions are powerless these days, so it’s adorable that you find them worth discussing. Can you discuss anything they’ve done in the last decade other than have a large rally that … um, did exactly what? They’ve been punched down to the approximate height of Herve Villechaize … kneeling.

      Reminder, the curriculum here in Indiana, what teachers are allowed to teach, is determined and laid out by the Indiana Department of Education. So if you don’t like what’s taught in Indiana schools, maybe holding the people responsible in charge would be the way to go. It’s not like they care about educational outcomes anyway … they care about choice, which isn’t what they sold the public on with vouchers to begin with. Which is similar to how many of the same people claim they’re pro-life … but they lose interest in that life as soon as that child passes through the birth canal.

      After Glenda Ritz stumbled into winning the superintendent’s office thanks to Tony Bennett’s nonsense, Republicans setup a parallel set of school administration. After Jennifer McCormick refused to go along with what her fellow Republicans wanted to do, they just got rid of the office altogether.

      I mean, I can see why McCormick might have been frustrated. When you, a trained professional, find yourself in a situation in which a retired florist has all the power, and educational outcomes have gotten worse the longer a florist has been the most influential person in the Indiana educational system, I’d be fed up as well. It’s almost as though they just don’t care.

      Oh yeah, one more thing. I can’t tell if you’re being pro-Orwell or anti-Orwell … by george, I’m confused.

  7. Mike S – so as adults we can’t re-evaluate and change our minds? That’s the trouble isn’t it – we just blindly vote for the same party no matter what even when they don’t remotely resemble what they once stood for.

  8. I can completely see why a Republican would switch parties and become a Democrat, given how Biden and the entire national Democratic platform have totally screwed up the country in every way possible in only 2 years, from the economy to China to vaccine mandates and lockdowns to waging war on fossil fuels to turning every issue into race or gender identity. Nice job.

    1. I enjoy the projection here of taking things that happened under Trump and blaming them on Biden…

  9. Wasn’t she a Republican until 2021 or something like that? It’s one thing to welcome converts, another to let them shortly assume leadership.

    Democrats can win in deep red states. Beshear in Kentucky is an example and is actually one of the most popular governors in the country. I think Indiana has a growing GOP fatigue as the continued impoverishment of our state becomes impossible to ignore.

    On the other hand, the Democrats seem to have collection of pretty low wattage potential candidates. They probably need to find a non-political, highly accomplished business executive that is willing to expressly repudiate the more extreme ideologies that are increasingly dominant in blue urban centers. Are there any names that fit the bill?

  10. Didn’t anyone notice the MASSIVE double digit percentage pay increases for Indiana’s Executive Branch office holders inserted in this just passed budget bill ??? There were no public notice or hearing at all . It was done behind closed doors by our AUTOCRATIC Republican legislative leaders.
    They used. The Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice salary as a reference point. I guess it could have been worse had used State College Head Coach compensation as the reference.

    1. Thank goodness they did. Pay for certain positions like Treasurer and Secretary of State pay $90,000 or less – not enough to attract top talent people to run for those positions. The current treasurer, for example, doesn’t even have a financial background.

  11. Lots of comments about a low voltage announcement. The dominance of Republicans for over 2 decades in Indiana has left us with elected officials who feel no accountability and can do as they please, as long as they stay on the Republican ticket. Diego Morales being Exhibit 1. Those non-accountable elected folks have presided over a cheapening of public education (look at the test scores over 20 years and the growth of unregulated charter schools), moving the wrong way on guns (polls show most voters favor gun controls), making it harder to vote and banning abortion (most polls show voters favor abortion in more cases than our right wing Republicans approve). If Dr. McCormick can reverse that tide, a tall order, then she get my support.

    1. I love the opinions shared, they provide us with the opportunity to understand our options and support those who make sense in the political realm. Wouldn’t most readers agree that one thing that all of us care about is the ongoing development needs of all kids. Our community future depends on kids becoming productive citizens. That might be for some doctors and lawyers but we need to support the others who want to become income providers doing things that most of us don’t or can’t do. We need all,100 % of kids if possible to pursue their interests and as young adults and be proactive in this ever changing economy.

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