Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dem Field Wide Open for Governor in 2016

2016 is still two election cycles away, but John Gregg's early exit from the race throws the race for the Democratic Gubernatorial nomination wide open.  It also gives us some time for some early handicapping of a wide open field.

The field could become closed tomorrow if one of the candidates I'm about to mention announces they are running, but I don't think you'll see anyone kick off a campaign until next year at the earliest.  For some of these candidates they will have to work harder than others.

Before you read any further, let me begin by saying that this is ONLY for entertainment purposes.  I have no inside information nor have I talked to any of the people about the campaign.  While my opinions may be informed, it's quite possible I left someone out.  It was not intentional.  Also, for the purpose of this exercise, we'll assume that Mike Pence is running for reelection.  Without further ado, a look at the possibilities...

Evan Bayh
The former Indiana Governor and U.S. Senator is always in the conversation when any office opens.  Any discussion begins with Birch Evans.  That said, I think that Bayh missed his chance to run in 2012.  I believe Bayh would have beaten Mike Pence in 2012, but he elected to sit it out.  Bayh would likely be more popular among moderates and even Republicans than his Democratic base that likely would support him only because he isn't .  He would have to work hard to regain that loyalty.  Bayh maintains a huge campaign warchest, and he has not come off that money.  Bayh remains an interesting person to think about, but I don't think Dems will wait for him to make his no doubt very deliberate decision.

Vi Simpson
The Lieutenant Governor candidate from 2012 for the Democrats would be an interesting and very contrasting candidate to Pence.  If there is a front runner or someone that I think it would be her.  Simpson will have no problem solidifying her base.  Democrats will back her.  Her problem will be bridging the gap between the moderates and those Republicans dissatisfied with Pence.  She is further left politically than most statewide Democrats this state is used to seeing run, but she's not nearly as far left as some on the right would have her.  Will the former Indiana Senate Democratic Leader run?  Should be one to watch.

Joe Hogsett 
Mr. Wild Card.  Joe Hogsett could run for Mayor in 2015.  He could run for Governor or U.S. Senate in 2016.  Hogsett also could choose to stay as U.S. Attorney because the front runner for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States is also a friend of his, Hillary Clinton.  If Hogsett runs for Governor, he will be a tough candidate.  There's probably not a back road he doesn't know or a small diner he hasn't shaken a hand or kissed a baby in.  He was a fine Secretary of State, a past candidate for Congress, Senate, and Attorney General.  Some of those were hopeless campaigns.  On top of it all, he's put together a darn good record as U.S. Attorney, and he has good name recognition and support statewide among the Democratic base.  I think it's much more likely that he will take on Greg Ballard for Mayor of Indy in 2015, but you never know.

Glenda Ritz
The Superintendent of Public Instruction won a statewide race as a Democrat in 2012.  I don't think she will run for Governor in 2016, and I have no idea what her plans are.  Someone has created a @Ritz4Gov Twitter feed.  Is Ritz serious about running or does she even want to run for Governor of Indiana?  I have no clue.  You can bet that Republicans will continue to try to throw dirt and mud at her given her popular win over Tony Bennett in 2012.  It's a long way to 2016 for Ritz.  Maybe longer than any of these other candidates since she is currently in statewide office.  She won't struggle for name recognition or campaign funds next time, though.  At this point, I think a run for her feels unlikely, but, as I said for Hogsett, you never know.

Baron Hill
Baron Hill is a veteran politician with many years in Congress and many campaigns in his history.  He was last seen running for reelection in 2010, and he was defeated by Todd Young.  Since then, Hill has dropped off the map.  I have heard his name more than once as someone that might run in 2016, so I include him here.  I don't know what his intentions are.  Hill, as a candidate for Governor would be interesting.  It's not the first time he's likely thought about running if he is right now.  At one point, Hill was rumored to be interested in running for Governor in 2012, but that was before his defeat.

Pete Buttigieg
The Mayor of South Bend made news recently by announcing that he would be deployed to Afghanistan on active duty in the Naval Reserve in early 2014.  When he returns, he will have to still face the voters of South Bend should he decide to run for reelection.  We should know any future plans from what he decides to do in 2015 and perhaps how the issues take shape in that race.  Buttigieg, while a great candidate for 2016, may also be a strong candidate in the future.  He's only 31.

Greg Goodnight
Goodnight is the Mayor of Kokomo, and he has been lauded as a more than effective leader in his years in office.  Like Buttigieg and McDermott, he will face reelection in 2015 which will be his third term should he win it.  Goodnight has shepherded Kokomo through a very difficult period, and the North Central Indiana city has not been hit nearly as hard as some of the other cities with heavy manufacturing bases.

Tom McDermott
The current Mayor of Hammond is usually brought up in conversation for almost any statewide race these days.  He ran briefly for Senate in 2010.  There was some talk that he might run for Governor in 2012.  It only makes sense he might run in 2016.  His comments in the Northwest Indiana Times would seem to indicate he would entertain a run for Governor, but, if he was quoted correctly, he took some shots pretty big shots at Bayh in the piece.  McDermott's willingness to engage Bayh would seem to indicate to me he's thinking of a run.  Like Buttigieg, McDermott has plenty of time to consider a run if he doesn't want to run this year.  He's 44.

Brad Ellsworth
The former Vanderburgh County Sheriff and 8th District Congressman put together a credible campaign against Dan Coats in just a few months, but, like many Democrats in 2010, Ellsworth lost in the Tea Party tide that swept many Republicans into office.  Ellsworth has been lobbying, and that could damage his run.  Still, I think he'd be a good candidate for public office again.  I seriously doubt he will be a candidate, but, like Hill, I've heard his name brought up as a possible candidate in 2016.

Tom Henry
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry gets left out sometimes in discussions about statewide offices, and I don't know why.  First elected in 2007, Henry was given a second term in 2011.  Like the other Mayors I mentioned earlier, he will have a decision to make about running for Mayor again in 2015, but he has some strong accomplishments he can point to as Mayor of the state's second-largest city.  For one, his city has attracted both political conventions.  That's bipartisanship, right?

The field
There are other names out there that might run.  These include former mayors like Jonathan Weinzapfel.  Maybe a City Council member from somewhere across the state will decide to run.  Maybe Joe Donnelly will tire of the Washington gridlock and come home to try a campaign.  Also possible is any number of current and former State Representatives and Senators.  It's still three years off, too!  Much can change!

The race is wide open.


guy77money said...

Vi, Pete or Greg would be my choices for governor. Have them actually talk to the voters in a intelligent way (Gregg's silly commercial come to mind)and make sure Ritz is by your side. Hoosier's want to know who you are and what you are going to do for them. Not those terrible feel good commercials from Pence. Evan ,Hogsett,and Hill are to enshrined in the Democrat party for my tastes.
Hogsett needs to run for mayor and actually ask people for the vote. Kennedy's mayoral campaign was a mess. I never could figure out from her ads who the heck she was and what she stood for. I don't really like Hogsett but so far he's the best option until another strong candidate shows up.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how you can say that Hogsett is putting together a good record as US Attorney! He refused to file charges against Brizzi, they bungled the John Bales case, and why their has been no federal investigation of FSSA and DWD is a mystery to many! Hogsett was a very corrupt Secretary of State! As for Bayh that jerk should stay away from Indiana! He voted with his party on everything except when his vote wasn't needed! Lastly Ellsworth got his butt whipped by Dan Coats! Enough said!

Anonymous said...

I think there are strong democratic contenders. I do think Mrs. Ritz will run -- she is building her coalitions right now. People are tired of the GOP ricking around their schools. Education will probably hit bottom in a couple of years when no one will want to teach. And, it is certainly not Mrs. Ritz's fault in any way and there will be critical teacher shortages. Tom Henry would be a good, viable candidate as would former mayor Paul Helmke. No one wrote about Tony Roswarski, but the state could use a good, common sense ex cop. We need a fresh face to carry the standard next go round.