Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

October 23, 2012

Lt. Gov. candidate Vi Simpson brings different view

INDIANAPOLIS — The general election of 1984 wasn’t a good year for Democrats, as Republicans in Indiana and across the nation rode in on the coattails of President Ronald Reagan’s landslide re-election.  

But Vi Simpson was one of the exceptions: The Democrat from Ellettsville beat the Republican incumbent to win a seat in the Indiana Senate. She’d been recruited by Frank O’Bannon, a longtime Democratic legislator who would later go on to beat the GOP favorite in the 1996 race for governor.

“I’ve often thought what a huge, idiotic move that was,” said Simpson, recalling her decision to run for a Republican-held seat. “But I just didn’t think about it. I just did it. And I’ve been in the Senate ever since.”

In May, Simpson, 66, decided to give up the Democratic nomination she won in the primary for her current seat – and with it, her position as Senate Minority Leader – to join Democrat John Gregg in his quest to become governor.

It wasn’t an easy decision; she’d considered running for governor in 2004, and again last year. Her husband, former state Sen. Bill McCarty, and her two adult children and four grandchildren, encouraged her.

“We decided to go for it,” she said.

When Gregg announced Simpson as his running mate, he said he “didn’t have to look long, didn’t have to look hard,” because she was “just a shining star.”

Simpson and Gregg share the same party, but not all the same views. Gregg Calls himself a moderate-conservative Democrat; Simpson calls herself a progressive Democrat.

She’s pro-choice; he’s pro-life. Simpson led Senate Democrats in the failed fight to stop the “right to work” law that bans contracts that compel employees to join a union. Gregg has said he doesn’t like the law, but won’t lead a fight to repeal it, if elected.

Simpson dismisses the significance of their differences, saying she and Gregg appeal to different constituencies. “That’s a good match,” she said.

In her 28 years in the Senate, Simpson earned a reputation for being forthright. She thinks it’s why voters in her district – which includes the Democrat-heavy college town of Bloomington – kept sending her back.

“I think being honest with the voters has really been my forte,” Simpson said, adding: “I’ve always been brutally honest, to a fault I think.”

Her first call to public service came as a teenager, listening to President John F. Kennedy’s urgings to young people to get involved in civic life.

“He was the kind of leader who brought young people into the fold,” she said. “He inspired us and caused all of us to aspire to do good.”

In college she volunteered on campaigns and later worked with displaced homemakers – helping women who’d been forced, by divorce or other circumstances, to get training and find work. She saw disparity in the financial credit laws and got interested in credit rights.

“I had this vision that someday I might be in a position that I could change the law,” Simpson said.

But she didn’t see herself as a political candidate until others saw it first.

The late Frank McCloskey, a six-term U.S. congressman from Bloomington, encouraged Simpson to run for her first office, that of Monroe County auditor. As auditor, she got involved in lobbying state legislators on behalf of county officials around the state.

“That’s when I figured out where the decisions that impact local communities were made,” Simpson said.

If elected, Simpson sees herself advocating for a more open legislative process in which all voices have the chance to be heard.

“The legislative process only works when people listen to each other,” she said. “Compromise and negotiations, which are the basis for the legislative process, have become bad words now.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Waterford Place looking to expand More senior living options could be on the way in Kokomo. Waterford Place Health Campus, located in the 800 block of St. Joseph Drive, is looking to expand with 11 new senior duplexes after receiving approval from the Kokomo Plan Commission’s plat co

    July 31, 2014

  • BMV offering driver tests in 11 languages INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles is now offering drivers tests in 11 languages other than English that are spoken across Indiana. BMV Commissioner Don Snemis said Wednesday the decision was made at the urging of businesses, un

    July 31, 2014

  • Tionna Brown 02 Kokomo celebrates Tionna Brown's gold medal victories Little boys with pretend gold medals around their necks fought Wednesday to get their pictures taken with a pint-sized superstar who had won three real gold medals for herself. Twelve-year-old Tionna Brown just returned from Texas after competing in

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • KFD Rescue 2 Staffing changes leave Kokomo Fire Department with one rescue truck A shift in how the Kokomo Fire Department is staffed and responds to calls has some firefighters worried they will not have access to all the equipment they need. City officials, however, maintain there will be no change in the quality of service pro

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Kokomo Police officers reach out to public Tuesday Kokomo police will be out in full force Tuesday in area neighborhoods. In addition to their regular patrols, officers will be out getting to know residents and the issues they may have as part of National Night Out, a crime prevention event. National

    July 30, 2014

  • Feds cite Indiana Medicaid fraud unit over notices INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal agency found that the Indiana attorney general's office didn't give proper notice in nearly a quarter of the Medicaid fraud cases it helped prosecute in recent years. A report from the Department of Health and Human Serv

    July 30, 2014

  • Indianapolis man buys 2 $1M tickets in 3 months INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indianapolis man is celebrating his second $1 million Hoosier Lottery prize in the past three months. Lottery officials say Robert Hamilton won a $1 million prize from a scratch-off ticket he bought last week at a convenience s

    July 30, 2014

  • Frankfort teen dies after rescue from Indiana city pool FRANKFORT (AP) — Authorities say a 15-year-old boy pulled from a central Indiana city pool has died. Frankfort Mayor Chris McBarnes says Adrian Alanis died in an Indianapolis hospital on Tuesday, the day after he was rescued from the deep end of the

    July 30, 2014

  • Pence pushing Medicaid alternative during DC trip INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is heading to Washington to seek federal approval of his proposed state-run alternative to traditional Medicaid in order to expand health care coverage for low-income residents. The governor's office says P

    July 30, 2014

  • Two arrested in purse-, wallet-snatching spree

    Two people were arrested late last week in relation to a string of purse and wallet thefts from shopping carts in local department stores.

    July 30, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries