Ritz, Buttigieg speak at Democratic dinner

Gubernatorial candidate: Education should be top priority

The Rochester Sentinel
By Wesley Dehne, Staff Writer

Glenda Ritz, superintendent of public instruction and 2016 gubernatorial candidate, called for greater emphasis on education and job creation while terming the Religious Freedom Restoration Act a “disaster” at the annual Jefferson Jackson Democratic Dinner at the Fulton County Museum Saturday.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg also spoke at the event, emphasizing the accomplishments of the largely Democratic city government.

Approximately 80 people attended the dinner, sponsored by the Fulton County Democrat Women.

To move Indiana forward, Ritz said her platform would focus on education, jobs, economic revival and community revitalization.

Ritz said handling 51 percent of the state’s budget through educational agencies she oversees has prepared her for the role of governor. She also noted the proliferation of schools is having an effect on the state’s economy.

“Education should be the top priority because it’s that important to our economy,” Ritz said. “There’s a shortage of teachers and more schools to serve – there’s nothing smart about that.” She went on to say that in the last legislative session nothing was accomplished to promote career education.

Other talking points for Ritz were closing the wage gap, reversing the decision regarding the common construction wage and supporting biomedical, agriculture and health care industries. She noted Indiana is 38th in the nation in per capita income.

“We produce a lot of engineers, but we don’t have jobs for them,” Ritz said referring to how young people are moving out of the state to find employment.

The final focus of Ritz’s speech was on community revitalization, noting it’s important to bring state resources to local governments. “When local governments are working on something, the state should work with them to say, ‘How can we get this done?’ and not work as separate entities,” Ritz said.

Ritz also criticized the state’s divisive RFRA saying, “No candidate for this or any other office can ignore the disaster it created.”

Buttigieg on fellowship

Addressing the fact that voters in Fulton County could not vote for him, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg instead focused on Democrats fellowship across the state and successes of his office.

Buttigieg noted under Democratic leadership several goals have been accomplished in the city of South Bend, using what he called evidence-based solutions while remaining fiscally responsible. On Feb. 27, 2013, with the release of the Vacant & Abandoned Properties Task Force Report, Buttigieg called for 1,000 abandoned houses to be addressed in 1,000 days. There are only 25 homes remaining, and the completion date is Nov. 24, 2015, Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg noted that shootings in the city have been reduced a third, but there is still more to be accomplished when examining gang-related gun violence in his city.

Revitalization of downtown South Bend was another talking point of Buttigieg, noting South Bend now has more than double the amount of restaurants and shops. There’s also a new energy in the community, which was evident during South Bend’s 150th birthday celebration this year, he said.

Tharp endorses Gregg

Howard County Democratic Party Chair David Tharp also attended the event to speak on behalf of John Gregg, who also is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor in 2016.

Tharp emphasized how Gregg raised $1.76 million, more than the $1.63 million collected by Republican Gov. Mike Pence, during Indiana’s governor race in 2012 (sic). He noted it’s rare for a candidate to raise more campaign funds than an incumbent, which he cited as evidence that Gregg can pull together resources to move Indiana forward.

Tharp also said as governor, Gregg would focus on building up the state’s infrastructure, with focus on not just roads and bridges, but the workforce, broadband capacity, renewable energy opportunities and health care systems.

Among those at the event were Democratic candidates Dick Roe, running for Rochester mayor, and Rochester City Clerk-Treasurer Shoda Beehler, who is running for re-election. Also in attendance were four candidates for Rochester City Council: Mark McCall, District 1; Bryan Holcomb, District 3; Cheryl Downs, District 5; and Lori Roberts, at-large.

Rich McLochlin and Sandy Tyler were recognized as Fulton County Democrats Man and Woman of the Year for dedicating their time and effort to the party.

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