Now that state superintendent Glenda Ritz is officially running for governor, the question is whether the grassroots support she garnered in 2012 during her campaign for superintendent can translate to a larger office.
For many supporters, like Kristina Frey, a parent from Washington Township Schools in Indianapolis, supporting Ritz for governor is a no-brainer. Frey voted for Ritz in 2012 and followed her career as she led the Department of Education and State Board of Education. Frey says Ritz’s leadership skills were definitely tested the last three years, but she was impressed with how Ritz handled herself.
“I don’t believe that she is the source of any problems and conflict on the State Board of Education,” Frey says. “I believe that conflict is primarily rooted in genuine policy and philosophical differences, I don’t believe it’s necessarily just an issue of bad leadership or bad personalities on either side, and I also believe that a lot of the tension and issues were not caused by or the fault of Glenda. I believe a lot of them were rooted in Governor Pence’s actions to set up the CECI group.”
Frey also says she is excited to support Ritz as a candidate because after working as a librarian in MSD Washington Township schools, the candidate understands the struggles of everyday working families.
Not all Democrats in the state have the same mindset at Frey, and believe her candidacy puts Democrats in a tricky spot. Tony Cook writes in the Indianapolis Star that the divide is much bigger than support of voters:
Her supporters believe the superintendent of public instruction — with her impressive grassroots operation and high-profile clashes with Republican Gov. Mike Pence — represents the party’s best chance to win back the state’s top post.
But many Democrats fear that her entrance into the race could cause a damaging inner-party rift at a time when Pence is more vulnerable than ever. […]
Fractures are already beginning to show.
The state’s building trades unions including the Indiana State Building and Construction Trades Council and Indiana District Laborers Council are lining up behind Gregg. He’s the mustachioed former Indiana House speaker who narrowly lost to Pence in 2012 with a quirky campaign that emphasized his moderate credentials as a “gun-totin’, Bible-quotin’ Southern Indiana Democrat.”
But if Ritz can gather the kind of support she did in 2012, she stands a chance. Andrew Downs, Director of the Mike Downs Center For Politics, says that although governor and state superintendent are very different jobs, the campaigning could look similar.
“The fact remains, this is a statewide race – as was superintendent of public instruction,” Downs says. “The volunteers had to call lists of voters, some of whom may have been in the world of education, and the majority of them not.”
Chris Robb, a Bloomington parent, has the opposite attitude as Frey. A Democrat who voted for Ritz in 2012, Robb says he wants to learn more about Ritz’s stance on issues outside of education before he decides who will get his vote in November.
“Based on my understanding of their personalities, Ritz would get my support,” Robb says. “I want to understand what everyone’s plans for the state are so I’m kind of taking a wait-and-see attitude, but I am encouraged by the fact that she is running.”