Tallian says she will run as a progressive voice with an emphasis on women’s pay and economic success for all Hoosiers.
By Brian Eason
Declaring that Indiana “is not as conservative” as many believe, state Sen. Karen Tallian said Tuesday she plans to seek the Democratic nomination for governor to give Hoosiers a progressive voice in the 2016 election.
“I’m running because it’s time to step up for everyday Hoosiers,” she said at a campaign announcement on the Statehouse steps. “We can sit back and wait for progress, or we can fight to achieve it.”
The Democrat from Portage, a Northwest Indiana city near Gary, was appointed to the Senate in 2005, after her predecessor resigned to become Merrillville clerk-treasurer. Since then, she has won three four-year terms and is the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
With Tuesday’s announcement, she became the second Democrat to enter the race, after former House Speaker John Gregg, who lost to Republican Mike Pence in 2012. Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has said she’s mulling a run but has not committed to doing so.
Tallian’s announcement comes on the heels of what she called a “trifecta” of divisive policy fights during the 2015 legislative session: the battle over control of the state Board of Education, the repeal of the common construction wage and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which sparked a national firestorm over the potential erosion of gay rights.
“I don’t think Indiana is as conservative as this legislature would have you think,” Tallian said to a throng of media and supporters. “I think we’re going to show that Indiana is in the middle of the road — and our governor is way far out” to the right.
Pence hasn’t announced whether he’ll run for re-election, saying he would make a decision after the legislative session that just concluded.
Tallian is seeking to become the state’s first female governor, though she would not be the first woman to win a major party’s nomination for the office. Democrat Jill Long Thompson ran in 2008 against incumbent Gov. Mitch Daniels.
In her announcement speech, Tallian stressed the need for better paying jobs, envisioning a future in which “economic success is possible for more than just a wealthy few.” She also said women deserve equal pay for equal work.
In Gregg, she faces a moderate who nearly defeated Pence three years ago but doesn’t necessarily excite the Democratic base.
“I will not be baited into saying anything negative about John Gregg,” she said, noting that she campaigned for him in 2012. “We are two very different people — it’s kind of obvious. I want to give Democrats that choice.”
Asked to explain what was different between them, Tallian quipped, “well, I don’t have a mustache.”
Later, she said she thinks she has different perspectives on urban poverty, diversity and women’s issues, such as access to health care and abortion rights. Gregg opposes abortion rights but has supported funding for Planned Parenthood for women’s health issues.
(Star researcher Cathy Knapp and the Associated Press contributed to this story. Call Star reporter Brian Eason at (317) 444-6129. Follow him on Twitter: @brianeason.)