Two of the three Democratic gubernatorial candidates were in Frankfort late last week as they were the guests a function held by the Clinton County Democratic Party.
Former Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Woody Myers and current member of the Indiana Senate from the 3rd District Eddie Melton joined about 30 other Democrats for a get-together at Johnny V’s Main Street Grille in downtown Frankfort. Another Democratic candidate for the position, businessman Josh Owens of Indianapolis, was unable to attend because he was at another speaking engagement.
Also in attendance was Democrat Joe Mackey, who is running for the Fourth Congressional District seat.
The overwhelming majority of the conversation was focused on three topics — education, healthcare and rural issues.
“My colleagues on the other side of the aisle are painting this Utopian picture of Indiana that says we have a $2.3 billion surplus and because we have a AAA (Triple-A) bond rating that everything is fine. That’s not the case,” said Melton. “Families are still struggling, veterans are not getting the services that they need and we still have some of the lowest wages in the country.”
Melton stayed on the attack when it came to education.
“I’ve been a champion for education, especially in public schools,” he said. “Making sure we fairly fund all of our schools is a concern along with making sure we support our teachers and making sure we are not testing our students to death, which is the direction we’ve gone all over the state for the past decade-and-a-half.”
In 1985, Myers was selected as Indiana’s Health Commissioner by Governor Bob Orr. In that position, he supported Ryan White, a teenager with AIDS who had not been permitted to attend school in his legal challenge against the school board. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan appointed Myers to the President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic. He resigned later that year in the midst of infighting. In 1990, Mayor David Dinkins appointed Myers as the health commissioner for New York City. He resigned in 1991, in part due to opposition to some of his HIV/AIDS polices.
Myers also attacked the current education process.
“The teacher pay issue and the way that the funding formula hurts some of the district in our state are major issues,” he said. “The fact that schools who want to do some of the things they need have to go through referendum to get things as opposed to having the legislature provide the funding and teachers having to go way out of their way to get things done.”
Myers also went after the situations in healthcare, as well.
“We’ve got a lot of challenges in public healthcare that we need to work on,” said Myers. “As far as jobs are concerned, we have to change the way we think about jobs. The jobs of the future are different from the jobs of the past.”
Mackey was especially passionate about the situation in rural areas. He relayed a story about a visit he recently made to the Colfax Volunteer Fire Department.
“Their fire truck is a vintage 1984 and it’s too old to upgrade,” said Mackey. “It doesn’t meet the needs of the community. We don’t have emergency response highly trained individuals. We need to develop a better system of emergency response in our rural areas.”
Mackey said that isn’t the only area that is struggling.
“The rural communities are struggling,” he said. “Their school budgets are shrinking. They have are having difficulty retaining educators. We see a lot of failed policies coming out of Washington, policies failing farmers, policies failing our children, our schools and policies are failing healthcare.”
Myers and Melton are in the process of getting to all 92 counties in the state. Myers said the Clinton County stop was the 32nd for him, while Melton said his visit marked the 35th or 36th stop on his tour.