By Janet Williams
INDIANAPOLIS—State Sen. Eddie Melton made it official Tuesday—he’s running for governor.
The first-term senator made the announcement that he’s seeking the Democratic nomination in his hometown of Gary. He was introduced by Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick, who called him a “great state senator, just an all-around good man.”
Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary. Photo by Eddie Drews, TheStatehouseFile.com
Melton took the stage to the cheers of “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie” and told the people who filled the Gary public library that he’s running to be a governor whose priorities are education, health care and ensuring Hoosiers earn a livable wage.
After rattling off a list of areas where Indiana falls behind, such as infant mortality rates, maternal health, teacher pay and the environment, he took a jab at Gov. Eric Holcomb’s re-election slogan, “putting people first.”
“We are at the bottom half overall in five out of the eight categories measured in the U.S. News and World Report’s 2019 rankings. At the same time, our current governor is campaigning on the slogan of putting people first,” he said.
Melton crisscrossed Indiana during the summer to listen to people about their concerns and was joined on part of the journey by McCormick, which drew criticism from Republican Party leaders. She decided against seeking a second term and her replacement will be appointed by the governor in 2021.
McCormick, in her introduction, addressed the criticism, saying, “This is about loyalty to Indiana. This is about loyalty to our voters. This is about loyalty to our citizens. This is about loyalty to our kids.”
Holcomb, a Republican running for a second term, declined to comment on McCormick’s involvement in Melton’s campaign.
“Her decisions are her decisions alone,” he said when asked about McCormick and Melton’s announcement while was attending another event Tuesday. He said he’s focused on the next legislative session and noted that there is more money going into teacher pay this year.
Kyle Hupfer, Holcomb’s campaign chair, issued a news release after Melton’s announcement crediting the governor for, among other things, increased funding to education while maintaining a balanced budget.
However, after being adjusted for inflation, Indiana teachers have seen their salaries drop by 15 percent over 15 years, according to the state Department of Education.
Melton, 38, is one of three Democrats seeking the nomination. The others are the former state health commissioner, Dr. Woody Myers, 65, and Indianapolis tech CEO Josh Owens, 34.
Myers issued a statement Tuesday welcoming Melton to the race, “I’m looking forward to a competitive and spirited primary focused on Democratic values.”
Melton, in making his announcement, said, “I feel a sense of responsibility to be a voice for those who have felt voiceless and to lead Indiana into a future which creates opportunity for all.”
Melton’s campaign produced a short video on his Facebook page in which he talked about how football and religion helped shape him as he went to college and returned to his home.
In the Senate, Melton serves on the Appropriations and the Education and Career Development committees. He was appointed to the state Board of Education by then-Gov. Mike Pence and works as manager of federal government relations for NIPSCO, the northern Indiana utility company.
Melton and his wife, Crystal, have four children.
The primary is next May 5 when, in addition to the governor’s race, Melton’s senate seat will be on the ballot.
Janet Williams is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.