Indiana schools superintendent Glenda Ritz made it official on Thursday: she is seeking the Democratic nomination to take on Mike Pence in next year’s gubernatorial race.
“As the mother of two children that have moved away from Indiana, I know all too well that many of our best and our brightest feel that they do not have the opportunities they need here, and they look to other places to live and raise a family,” Ritz said during her announcement.
Ritz joins an increasingly crowded field. State senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) and former state speaker John Gregg, the party’s 2012 nominee, both threw their hats into the ring in the past few weeks. But Ritz has at least one key advantage: she is the only candidate who has already won statewide office, having received more votes than Pence in her race for state superintendent than Pence received for governor.
The announcement, which was made at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, saw Ritz take a number of shots at the incumbent governor, who has seen his approval rating slide after the disastrous Religious Freedom Restoration Act fallout.
“No candidate for this or any other office can ignore the disaster made by the current leadership to use religious rights as a divisive political issue during the last session of the General Assembly. We must respect the personal and civil rights of all of Indiana’s citizens and bring forward legislation that respects the rights of all Hoosiers,” Ritz said.
Ritz also implicitly targeted the corporate tax cuts passed during Pence’s term.
“Today in Indiana, state government is growing bigger, more expensive and more removed from the needs of taxpayers while working Hoosiers shoulder more of the state’s tax burden,” Ritz said, adding that she has “seen politics drive the creation of an entirely new government agency just to take away the authority of the Department of Education, I am well aware of the need to use tax dollars wisely so Hoosiers get the government that they deserve.”
Ritz said that education, economic development and revitalization would be centerpieces of her campaign.
Ritz will be holding a series of campaign events across the state today and tomorrow. The candidate will be in South Bend on Friday at 1:30 pm on the west steps of the old court house next to the County-City Building in downtown South Bend. She will also visit Evansville, Fort Wayne, Hammond and Terre Haute over the course of the two day kick off.
Ritz has been a frequent target of Republican leaders.
“In all fairness, Superintendent Ritz was a librarian, okay?” David Long, the president pro tempore of the Indiana State Senate, derisively said in January.
Republican state legislators, with the support of the governor, attempted to strip Ritz of her powers as state superintendent in a power struggle that drew national attention. The legislature ultimately passed — and Pence signed — a bill that would alter the role so that the state superintendent is not automatically the chair of the state board of education, but only after the 2016 election.
Pence is expected to announce that he is seeking re-election during a Republican Party event on June 18. He could face primary challengers of his own as business leaders in the state have questioned his leadership.
One of those leaders – Bill Oesterle, the CEO and co-founder of Angie’s List, as well as a party insider who ran former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’ successful campaign in 2004 – is considering a run for governor himself. Oesterle stepped down as CEO in April to become “more civically involved in the state of Indiana.” He has called the state’s “fix” to the RFRA “insufficient.”