Ideally, political campaigns do more than produce winners and losers. The contests can shine a bright light on important issues, forcing candidates to share with the public their ideas for solving pressing problems.
Unfortunately, the light coming from this year’s gubernatorial campaign is especially dim. One of the two major parties is coasting because the other one failed to show up. It’s a low-wattage affair that leaves Hoosier voters in the dark.
On paper, Democrat Woodrow Myers seems like the perfect candidate for the moment. He’s a doctor running in the midst of a pandemic. And, at a time of great concern about racial inequality, he’s the first Black candidate for governor of Indiana to represent either of the major parties. But Myers’ campaign is all but invisible. The high-profile race for the state’s 5th Congressional District is grabbing all the money and headlines, with the contest for attorney general and certain Statehouse races making some waves, too.
None of which is the fault of incumbent Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, but the moribund Myers campaign has Holcomb sitting on his lead and robs voters of a robust discussion of ideas. Big ideas at the state level will determine the course of Indiana’s economy and the health of our biggest cities and smallest towns.
Long before the pandemic, Indiana faced a host of challenges on the public health front, with chronically high rates of obesity and smoking. So far, even with a friendly Legislature, Holcomb hasn’t had much luck moving the state toward a healthier future. Although Holcomb supported raising the smoking age to 21, he fell in line with Republicans who snuffed out a strong push to add $2 a pack to the state’s cigarette tax. Unhealthy Hoosiers are a burden on themselves and everyone. What are Holcomb’s ideas for moving the needle?
On the education front, the next governor will appoint the first non-elected state superintendent of public instruction. Yet we’ve heard little from Holcomb about his plans for public education in the state.
Improving public education is the long road to a talented workforce. A more immediate need is a plan for attracting talent now—a battle other cities and states are fighting today in the competition for knowledge workers dislodged by the pandemic.
Indiana has built-in advantages when it comes to cost of living and might very well be appealing to anyone interested in escaping dense urban centers. But our economic development strategies still largely reward companies instead of individuals. Our gubernatorial candidates should be vocal about promoting policies that would help lure tech workers, writers, consultants or anyone with an entrepreneurial urge.
Granted, Holcomb and his campaign have nothing to gain politically by introducing creative policy proposals in the midst of a safe race.
But how about January? Absent what would surely be one of the greatest political surprises of all time, that’s when Holcomb will begin his second term. He’ll have four years and little to lose by making bold proposals that can help those who are struggling, shore up our weaknesses and make Indiana more economically competitive than ever.
That’s our challenge to you, governor. We hope you can meet it.•
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