McCormick launches campaign for governor in bid to restore common sense, civility

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One day after announcing her campaign for Indiana Governor, former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick received the endorsement of State Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, at a Friday press conference in Gary.

“I worked with her for four years, and I saw that she was not a politician but she was a public servant,” said Smith, who serves as the ranking minority member on the House Education Committee. “This woman showed that she cares about people.”

A former member of the Republican Party, McCormick was elected to lead the state’s schools in 2016, unseating the teachers union-backed Democratic incumbent Glenda Ritz. She later broke with the Indiana GOP over education policy and switched to the Democratic Party in early 2021.

At the press conference, McCormick framed her candidacy as a bid to restore “common sense” and “civility” to a state government preoccupied with “distractions.” She pointed to recently passed legislation banning library books deemed harmful to children and targeting members of the LGBTQ community, conservative causes that she said do not reflect the values of ordinary Indiana residents.

“No matter where I go, no matter where I visit, one thing remains clear: Hoosiers do not recognize the out of touch divisiveness that is coming out of the State House,” McCormick said. “I really feel like the (Republican) supermajority wants to hover in that because that is a national trend.”

If elected, she said, she aims to be a “champion for a high quality education system,” increasing access to child care, implementing universal preschool and strengthening post-high school training.

McCormick is attempting to succeed Republican Governor Eric Holcomb, who will be unable to run due to term limits, in the 2024 election. U.S. Senator Mike Braun, Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch, and Fort Wayne Businessman Eric Doden are all vying for the GOP nomination.

McCormick’s new party affiliation means facing an uphill battle for the governor’s mansion: the state’s last Democratic governor left office in 2005 and no Democrat has won a statewide office in more than a decade.

“We are very aware that we’re going to have to pull some Republicans and independents and libertarians,” she said, adding that her campaign has already seen some moderate GOP voters sign up to volunteer.

The event was held at the campaign headquarters of State Senator Eddie Melton, D-Gary, the presumptive victor in Tuesday’s mayoral Democratic primary election. McCormick was an ally of Melton’s even before joining the Democratic Party — in 2019, she backed his own short-lived campaign for governor, which he eventually abandoned in favor of a reelection bid.

Gary was one of three Friday campaign stops for McCormick, who also made appearances in Fort Wayne and South Bend.

adalton@chicagotribune.com