Dems who would be governor: Gregg vs. Tallian vs. Ritz

There's an issue many of my local and state Democratic Party friends disagree with. They dislike, disdain, abhor, and are frightened and apprehensive about primaries.

I relish, love and welcome them.

In Lake and Marion Counties, Democratic primaries are where African-American candidates get their start, progress and are nurtured.

Now, Indiana Democrats face a major primary battle for their party's nomination for governor.

Sensing weakness among the electorate about Gov. Mike Pence, three Democrats have now publicly announced they're running for governor.

Former House Speaker and 2012 Governor candidate John Gregg, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and State Sen. Karen Tallian each bring different strengths and liabilities to what's shaping up to be an unusual 2016 governors race.

Gregg lost in 2012 to Mike Pence by just 75,408 or 2.9 percent. He declared last month and has locked up support from some key labor unions.

Last time, Gregg came across as the folksy candidate from small town Sanborn, Ind. Some say that presentation got a lackluster reception from urban and northern Indiana voters.

This time, Gregg is aggressively going after Pence in videos and on social media.

Tallian is a respected 10-year state senator from the northern Indiana town of Portage. An attorney, she's campaigning on economic issues, especially Indiana's high poverty and declining household incomes. Tallian's the self-proclaimed progressive in the race, but outside her district, the statehouse and party insiders, she's not well known.

Then there's Ritz.

With little money, but with a grass roots army on social media and phone calls, Ritz toppled Dr.

Tony Bennett and got more votes statewide than Pence or Gregg.

Republicans, angered by Bennett's loss and education reformers upset that Ritz didn't kiss their — you know — ganged up on Ritz. Their attack backfired, turning her into a martyr; making her well-known and popular.

One of the major problems Democrats face in 2016 is trying to overcome the bias and ignorance of much of Indiana's mainstream media, especially Indianapolis media which reaches some 30 percent of Indiana's population.

There are key issues Democrats should be stressing in the 2016 election including, as the legendary James Carville would say, "It's the economy, stupid."

Republicans will be crowing about the sharp reduction in unemployment numbers. With as many, if not slightly more, Hoosiers working now than were working when the Great Recession began in late 2008.

But despite the gains, incomes of Indiana residents are stagnant at best and declining at worse. The economic conditions of those living in small town and rural Indiana are dangerous and distressing.

The HIV epidemic in rural, homogenous locales like Scott County is emblematic of the economic agony in those areas.

In Indiana's cities, including Indianapolis, working class and middle class families are getting squeezed. While there are "help wanted" signs blossoming like weeds all across the area, the wages don't support families.

Those are great issues for the Democrats. But, the mainstream media, especially in Indianapolis, continually ignores these issues.

The Indianapolis Star feels covering the opening of beer bars is more important than covering the deteriorating economic condition of Indiana residents.

Democrats also have some strong issues concerning mismanagement in state government.

Democratic legislators have exposed problems at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Child Services.

The key for Democrats is to break through the wall of mainstream media indifference to start to get their message heard by Hoosiers.

Gregg, Tallian and Ritz also must directly confront their weaknesses.

John Gregg must overcome the "hick" image those from outside southern Indiana may still have. Those that know Gregg well know he's not that. But the real John Gregg has to come through.

I met Sen. Tallian, in a private conversation, for the first time the other week. I was impressed with her knowledge of the issues and problems facing Indiana and her passion for helping Hoosiers. But she's got to get out and touch Hoosiers outside her region.

Ritz must convince voters that she's more than a one-issue candidate.

Yes, education is a serious issue, but so is economic development, the issues faced by our farmers and rural residents, revitalizing Indiana's small towns and cities, raising this state's standard of living, rebuilding quality jobs for our residents and competence in running a $16 billion dollar a year government.

Ritz is vulnerable on how well she ran the Department of Education and she must realize that the same GOP forces that made her a martyr will demonize her if she were to win the primary.

Monday on our WTLCAM (1310) "Afternoons with Amos" program, I took an unscientific informal poll of how Blacks felt about the three.

Some 41 percent were undecided. Another 23 percent favored Ritz; another 23 percent wanted Ritz/Gregg or Gregg/Ritz to run as Governor/Lt. Governor; while 11 percent wanted Gregg. Tallian had no support, not surprising at this stage.

But all respondents wanted to hear clearly where the candidates stood on issues important to them and to African-American Hoosiers.

That's why Democrats need to have a public debate with these gubernatorial candidates on the issues. We need to hear from those who want to lead our state on how they would do it and how they would be better than what we've got now.

It's a debate that just might engage independent voters and get them to take a new look at Indiana Democrats. I welcome the primary. Gregg, Ritz and Tallian— each of the three would be a great 51st Governor of Indiana, in my opinion. So, John, Karen, Glenda — bring it on!

See 'ya next week!

You can email Amos Brown at

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