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Dem governor candidates make their case

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The three men jockeying to wrest control of the governor’s seat from the GOP in 2020 introduced themselves to local Democrats, putting forth nearly identical talking points on boosting teacher’s pay and refocusing the state’s budget priorities.

State Sen. Eddie Melton, former Indiana health commissioner Woody Myers and tech CEO Josh Owens were the featured speakers at the Montgomery County Democratic Party’s annual dinner Friday at the Crawfordsville Community Center.

The historic slate of candidates could bring a series of firsts to next year’s elections: Melton or Myers would become Indiana’s first black governor and Owens, a Wabash College graduate, is the first openly gay person to seek the office. The nominee will face Republican Eric Holcomb, who is basing his re-election bid on the state’s economy and boasts a large campaign war chest. 

“I’m telling you, you don’t have three people running for this office if we don’t actually think it’s going to work. This is a winnable race,” said Owens, 34, a tech CEO.

Owens touted his newly-released education plan, which proposes spending $3 billion on over 10 years on public schools without raising taxes. The plan calls for giving teachers a minimum $50,000 annual salary and tapping into the state’s budget surplus to create a permanent public school endowment.

The other candidates came out swinging against the state’s current education spending agenda. Melton, 38, who represents Gary in the General Assembly, criticized Holcomb for signing a budget that he said provides more dollars to virtual and charter schools than public classrooms, which he said saw a smaller funding increase.

Melton said Holcomb’s administration has also failed to adequately respond to demands for reforming the Department of Child Resources.

“The current governor has no vision,” Melton said. “He’s running on a platform that says ‘people first.’ But there’s nothing in his experience that I’ve seen, or in his current administration to show that he’s putting people first.”

Myers, 65, said the state has “wasted so much money” on the ISTEP and ILEARN tests and virtual schools.

The former emergency room physician — who was the state’s chief health officer during the early years of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s — pledged to lower prescription drug prices by lobbying drug companies against hiking the costs of medications, address climate and environmental issues and attracting and retaining jobs.

“I just believe very strongly that the unexpected red wave that hit our country like a fist in the jaw in 2016 will become a blue wave, a tsunami of blue votes nationwide and also here in Indiana in 2020,” Myers said.

Before casting their votes for governor next year, Crawfordsville voters have decisions to make in this fall’s city council races.

Joyce Burnette, who’s seeking to unseat Ward 5 Republican Stan Hamilton, listed expanding access to childcare and transportation as her top priorities.

At-large councilman Mike Reidy also called for more childcare options, especially for night-shift workers, along with tackling the opioid crisis and opening an outdoor skating rink.

Early voting for next month’s election begins Oct. 28.

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