Dr. Woody Myers

Former state health commissioner Woody Myers announced his run for Indiana governor Wednesday.

Photo by Victoria Ratliff, TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS- Dr. Woody Myers, a former state health commissioner, on Wednesday became the first Democrat to officially get in the race for governor.

“I’m running for governor because Indiana has too many pre-existing conditions that typical politicians just can’t treat,” Myers said.

Myers will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican incumbent Gov. Eric Holcomb, who is expected to formally announce his re-election bid at a kickoff rally Saturday in Knightstown.

Standing outside what was once Wishard Memorial Hospital where he used to teach critical care and emergency medicine, Myers told a small group of supporters and a larger group of reporters that Indiana needs a shake-up. He cited medical issues, such as combatting opioid addiction and infant mortality, but also pocketbook issues and education

“All Hoosiers deserve the best schools, the best health care and a state that is creating jobs and opportunities for workers and their families faster than wages are rising,” Myers said.

“While today’s politicians are bickering, fighting and thinking small, Hoosiers in every corner of our state are having a harder time getting by, let alone getting ahead,” Myers said. “Teachers are leaving our state in record numbers, students are being forced to deal with overcrowded classrooms and less individual attention and it’s wrong that music classes and art classes are becoming optional.”

Myers said education is one of the areas he will focus on the most, saying “we’ll stop cutting education and start paying our teachers what they deserve because our teachers are worth it, and the future of the state depends on it.”

Noting his resume, Myers said: “I don’t know what else one could do to get better ready for this job than what I’ve done over the last couple of decades.”

Myers first served as the state’s health commissioner – the youngest person and first black to hold the position — under a Republican, Gov. Robert D. Orr, and remained at the post under Democrat Gov. Evan Bayh.

Since leaving office, Myers has focused on various businesses. He is now owner of Myers Ventures LLC, a business consulting firm in Indianapolis, and consults for a variety of hospitals, health care companies and provider organizations.

His one previous foray into elected politics was a 2008 primary campaign for Congress in 2008. Myers lost to Andre Carson, spending $1.8 million of his own money on the campaign.

Among those cheering Myers on Wednesday was Cheryl Sullivan, a former head of Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration who earlier led the maternal and child health division while Myers was health commissioner.

“He is focused, he is smart, he is compassionate,” Sullivan said. “He wants to ensure that this is a state that not only works, but cares about all Hoosiers.”

She noted he was a key figure during the early fight against AIDS. At a time when the word “AIDS” sparked panic, Myers supported the right of Ryan White, a Kokomo teen suffering from the disease, to go to school. Myers physically stood by White, who later died from the disease, saying the child posed no threat to public health, and even tousling the boy’s hair to demonstrate his lack of fear.

Former Congressman Baron Hill, who has signed on as Myers’ campaign chairman, told supporters that Myers will give Indiana “an alternative way” and will deliver a different set of values to Hoosiers apart from the Republican message that has been heard for the past 16 years.

Republicans, though, argued that it’s Myers’ message that is off-key

Pete Seat, a spokesman for the Indiana Republican Party, said in a statement that “I know Woody has spent a limited amount of time in Indiana over most of the last two decades and it showed.”

“Coming off of back-to-back years of record job commitments, $1 billion in new investment in K-12 education and the only fully-funded infrastructure program in the country, Indiana is on a roll,” Seat said. “On the ground, Hoosiers see that Gov. Holcomb is positively impacting lives every day. It may be hard to see from his $4.5 million penthouse in the Conrad (Indianapolis hotel), but it’s what Woody will find as he travels across Indiana.”

At least two other Democrats also are eyeing a run to be the state’s chief executive: State Rep. Karlee Macer of Indianapolis and State Sen. Eddie Melton of Gary who is in Indianapolis Thursday as part of a statewide listening tour on education issues with Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick.

LaMonte Richardson is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College students.

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