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Political Scientist: Crowded Primaries for Gov. Add To Unpredictability

Indiana Department of Education

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz’s expected entry this week into next year’s gubernatorial race means at least three Democrats would seek the nomination for governor next year.

Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, says a competitive Democratic primary for governor could be an advantage for Governor Mike Pence or those who challenge him.

"It’s actually bad for Democrats because they fracture themselves and they give a bunch of evidence and information for Republicans to use against them in November" Downs says.

Ritz’s calculus about whether to run for governor may have changed after this year‘s legislative session, which resulted in a law that will eventually remove the superintendent as the automatic chair of the State Board of Education.

Many State Board members, Republicans and Democrats alike, complained that Ritz and her staff stonewalled them several times on requests for information. At the same time, Ritz claimed the governor‘s office tried to take over her department and reduce her authority. Downs says Ritz will have to be careful to make sure she does not become a one-issue candidate.

"No longer do you need 50 percent plus one in order to win," Downs says. "With three people in the race, everything changes now and if a fourth person jumps in, and there are rumors of others who might jump in, it gets even more interesting."

Democrats believe Pence is vulnerable due to a low favorability rating in polls taken after the legislative fight over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Pence also beat John Gregg by only three-percentage points in 2012 in what otherwise was a strong election year for Republicans. Gregg has announced he’ll try again in 2016.

In addition to Ritz and Gregg, Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) is also running for the Democratic nomination.

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