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September 19th , 2023       Len’s Political Note #590 Jennifer McCormick, Indiana Governor

2024                                         General Election

The last three Indiana governors were Republicans:

Eric Holcomb                   2017 to the present

Mike Pence                     2013 to 2017

Mitch Daniels                  2005 to 2013

The three Indiana governors who preceded Mitch Daniels were Democrats

Joe Kernan                     2003 to 2005

Frank O’Bannon             1997 to 2003

Evan Bayh                      1989 to 1997

It is not out of the question for a Democrat to be elected state wide in Indiana.  It is less likely and a little irrelevant to this story, but Democrats have even been elected to the US Senate from Indiana:

Joe Donnelly                    2013 to 2019

Evan Bayh                       2011 to 2017

If we are looking at a bit of a Blue Wave in 2024, Jennifer McCormick will have chosen the right year to switch from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party

She left high school with plans to be a teacher.  She went to Purdue where she got a BA in elementary education.  She got a job as an elementary school special education teacher in the Yorktown Community School District west of Muncie.  As these things sometimes go, she moved to teaching English in the middle school and stayed there for eight years.  Staying in the school system, she was hired as the principal of the district elementary school and then, for a year,  as the district’s assistant superintendent.  In 2010, the school board hired her as the superintendent of the Yorktown district which had fewer than 3,000 students, more than 150 teachers, and a budget approaching $30 million.

For a classroom teacher, moving to be a principal and then an assistant principal is a kind of change in your life’s work; but becoming a superintendent, reporting to a school board, being the public face of the school district transforms your job altogether. She went through the process of getting credentials.  Jennifer McCormick earned a Master’s Degree from Ball State and, in 2011, a PhD from Indiana State all the while working in the Yorktown schools.  School superintendents need to be educators, but they also need to be politicians.  She was leading an 80% white, prosperous school district west of Muncie.

Jennifer McCormick was a Republican.  People who grow up on farms in Indiana are likely to be Republicans. She ran for Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI), opposing the first Democrat elected in years, promising to end the quarrels between the SPI and the Department of Education.

Jennifer McCormick had entered the realm of genuine politics.  She defeated the Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction, but she did not end the quarrels. Reflecting on her first two years in the job, she said in a news conference “When I got into this office, ‘I want[ed] to do what’s best for kids. I think back to that time…it was so cute.  I was so naïve.  Now that I’ve learned the governance structure….things are very complicated in Indiana.”

She was announcing that she would not run for SPI again in 2020.  The job was not what it once was.  The governor and the legislature had transformed the system.  Beginning in 2025, a Secretary of Education would be appointed by the governor and the Superintendent of Public Instruction position would be abolished. With Jennifer McCormick’s plan not to run in 2020, the legislature began the process of moving the transition date to 2021.  They wanted an education secretary who worked for and was subject to the direction of the Governor.

By the time Jennifer McCormick announced she would not run in 2020, she had been through several contentious issues – of which the change to an appointed State Superintendent was only one.  She had entered the process having defeated the first Democrat in the post in years and was leaving having become an ally of the teachers’ union.  The Union president described her as a “strong advocate for public schools.”

The new state test was one contentious issue.  Years in development, it was introduced in 2019 under Jennifer McCormick.  Statewide scores went down. 37% of students passed both English and math compared to the previous year and test when the number was 51%.   Jennifer McCormick’s response was that lower scores were to be expected for the start of more rigorous evaluation. She urged that scores be decoupled from teacher evaluation and teacher pay.  She supported parent and teacher demands that the test scores not be used, for a year, for the annual grading of schools.  The goal, after all, was that the Indiana schools adjust their teaching so that the learning experience in Indiana was more rigorous. That was why they had developed a more rigorous test.

Then came Covid.  Administration of the tests in the spring of 2020 were cancelled.

Other initiatives were not cancelled.  Jennifer McCormick strengthened oversight of charter schools and private schools.  The controversy was less fraught than the fights over testing, but it was real.  Oversight was not particularly welcome.

She insisted she was tough enough for real politics.  Her explanation?  She was a wrestling mom.  Her son, a high school wrestler, has since graduated from the United States Military Academy and is now in active service.  Her husband, a high school teacher, is still the wrestling coach.

After she completed her term of office, she took a position as Senior Vice President for EES Analytics, a firm that worked with school districts on plans for individual student learning.  She also traveled around the state – speaking to and listening to education advocacy groups and Democratic groups.  She criticized Republicans for not supporting public schools and for pushing the national culturally conservative Republican agenda.

Completing that tour, she announced for Governor as a Democrat.  The venue was a bar in New Castle (kind of an upscale bar), the town where she was born. Her campaign video criticizes lawmakers for the abortion ban they passed, for repealing the state requirement for permits for handguns against police opposition, and for keeping Indiana’s gasoline taxes among the highest in the country.

Jennifer McCormick insists she is not approaching her new task naively.  She understands the politics, how difficult it is for a Democrat to be elected in Indiana. She has since publicized an internal poll showing her in a 36-36 tie with former Attorney General Curtis Hill, trailing Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch by a narrow 35-39 margin, and trailing US Senator Mike Braun by a larger 35-46 margin.  The campaign argues that state-wide anger at the abortion ban and general dissatisfaction with the direction of the legislature and the state gives her an opening. She says she believes she will be elected Governor.

Help Jennifer McCormick make the most of her opportunity. She will need resources to compete.  Halfway through 2023, Lt. Governor Crouch has $3.8 million for her campaign, Senator Mike Braun has $4.4 million, and Businessman Eric Doden has $3.8 million.  The former Attorney General has only recently announced. Although the Republicans will spend a lot of their money competing with each other, Jennifer McCormick needs to keep up.  She entered the second half of 2023 with only $200,000.  Help her raise more.

2023 Elections for Governor and Down Ballot.
Kentucky election day                               November 7, 2023

Mississippi election day                            November 7, 2023

Louisiana non-partisan primary            October 14, 2023

Louisiana run off, top two                        November 18, 2023

October 14 is a month plus away.  November 18 is 2 months away.  If you are going to do something about these elections, donate now. 


Democrats for Governor:

Incumbent Andy Beshear            Kentucky, Formerly, the Attorney General. Len’s Political Note #533

Shawn Wilson                                 Louisiana, Formerly the State Secretary of Transportation. Len’s Political Note #549

Brandon Presley                            Mississippi, Formerly one of three elected public service commissioners. Len’s Political Note #535

Democrats for State Supreme Court Justice:

Dan McCaffrey                                Pennsylvania, Currently an Appellate Judge.  Len’s Political Note #571

For Attorney General

Colonel Pamela Stevenson         Kentucky, former Senior Official in the Air Force Judge Advocate system and state rep Len’s Political Note #561

Greta Kemp Martin                        Mississippi, Litigation Director for Disability Rights Mississippi running against a Republican who truly deserves to be defeated. Len’s Political Note #563

For Treasurer

Dustin Granger                               Louisiana, Financial Advisor. Len’s Political Note #562

For Secretary of State

Buddy Wheatley                             Kentucky, Former Fire Chief and former state rep.  Len’s Political Note #582

Make sure that Virginia has a Democratic legislature than can stand up to its Republican governor. 

 For the House of Delegates: Kimberly Pope Adams, Jessica Anderson, Joshua Cole, Michael Feggans, Susanna Gibson, Joshua Thomas. See Len’s Political Note #573 of July 6, 2023

For the State Senate: Clint Jenkins, Monty Mason, Russet Perry, Danica Roem, Schuyler VanValkenburg.   Len’s Political Note #573 of July 10, 2023Jenn