INDIANAPOLIS | Indiana Democrats are optimistic they will add to their legislative delegation and win control of the three state offices on the November ballot by promoting themselves as the political party for all Hoosiers.
Some 1,700 delegates attending the Democratic state convention Saturday roared with approval for the party's platform that emphasizes marriage equality, a higher minimum wage, health care for all, improved services for veterans and the disabled, equal pay for women and repeal of right-to-work.
"Democrats are the party of Indiana's future. ... We're the party that solves real problems for real people that live in the real world," said House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City. "We have a historic opportunity to build a lasting movement to lead our great state — and it starts now."
Pelath said Republicans — who will hold their convention Saturday in Fort Wayne — are too focused on imposing a conservative social agenda while doling out tax breaks to their business cronies, and they've ignored the needs of middle-class Hoosiers.
"(We're going to) have the biggest test that we can build, underneath which is an Indiana coalition that looks like all of Indiana," Pelath said. "All we ask is that you believe Indiana can and must do better."
Carrying the Democratic campaign banner through the summer and fall will be the three statewide candidates officially nominated without opposition at the biannual party convention — Beth White for secretary of state, Mike Claytor for state auditor and Mike Boland for state treasurer.
Lake County Clerk Mike Brown nominated White, the Marion County clerk, to serve as the state's chief elections officer.
White pledged that she'll fight to undo the ballot and identification restrictions, championed by Munster native Todd Rokita, a Republican former secretary of state, and the Republican incumbent Connie Lawson, that have made it harder for Hoosiers to vote.
"These laws are not by accident. They are an orchestrated effort to try to keep us from exercising our right to vote," White said. "The sacred relationship between government and the governed completely breaks down when people do not participate."
John Gregg, the Democrats' 2012 gubernatorial candidate, nominated Claytor and nicknamed him "The Calculator."
Claytor, who could become the first certified public accountant to serve as the state's chief financial officer, said he'd keep a close watch on how Republican Gov. Mike Pence is spending the state's money.
"I own a calculator and I know how to use it," Claytor warned. "Things will never add up for this and future generations when we have a state that has almost 1 of every 4 children living in poverty."
Boland, a former Illinois state representative who now lives in Fishers, said the failure of Indiana Republicans to look out for the middle class and the state's most needy drew him out of retirement to shake things up.
"Now is the time that we have a state government that operates for all the people, not just a few," Boland said.
While the convention's official business was focused entirely on this year, Democrats thinking about 2016 were easy to spot.
Gregg was everywhere glad-handing and posing for pictures during the convention and at Friday night's party dinner. A large number of delegates sported stickers reading "I still want" Gregg's mustache logo from his 2012 campaign.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr. also met with delegates from many parts of the state as a possible prelude to a 2016 run for governor.