INDIANAPOLIS | John Gregg, the 2012 Democratic nominee for Indiana governor, announced Wednesday he will not make a second run for the state's top job.
The mustached moderate whose folksy, hometown television ads delighted and disturbed Hoosier voters in nearly equal measure last year said in a statement he is stepping back from the political world as a candidate but will remain involved as a citizen.
"I still care deeply about the issues we talked about in 2012: Jobs that pay a living wage; working to develop our potential as a state with job growth in advanced manufacturing, medical devices, life sciences, energy and agriculture; and taking politics out of our public education system," he said.
Gregg, a former speaker of the Indiana House, never really stopped campaigning after losing to Republican Gov. Mike Pence by just 75,408 votes, a margin of less than 3 percent.
Since November, Gregg, 59, has attended more than three dozen Democratic Jefferson-Jackson dinners -- staying visible in a party that is the minority in the House and Senate and holds just two statewide offices: a U.S. Senate seat and state superintendent of public instruction.
"My intent had been to be our party's candidate for the office of governor in 2016," Gregg said. "Despite the overwhelming support and encouragement to make another run, I am announcing that, at this time, I am no longer actively seeking the Indiana Democratic Party's nomination."
Many Democrats privately hope Gregg's departure from the race paves the way for the return of Democratic former Gov. Evan Bayh, who led Indiana from 1989-97 before serving two terms in the U.S. Senate.
Bayh remains popular among Hoosiers of all political stripes and his $10 million campaign fund would give him a big head-start over Pence, who outspent Gregg nearly 3-to-1 last year.
But Lake County Democratic Chairman Thomas McDermott, Jr., believes if Bayh wants to make a second run for governor he should start by returning to his Hoosier roots.
"He doesn't live in Indiana, so how can he can he run for governor?" McDermott said. "And if he is going to run for governor in 2016, I suggest he move back to Indiana very quickly so he can start talking to people."
The three-term Hammond mayor said the idea of Bayh returning is mostly "wishful thinking" among Democrats that have forgotten Bayh quit his 2010 re-election bid the day before the filing deadline, forcing Democrats to scramble for a replacement.
Their pick, U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth, lost to Republican Dan Coats. Bayh remained in the Washington D.C. area after leaving the Senate and now works as an attorney and Fox News pundit.
"If Evan Bayh moves here and Evan Bayh starts campaigning like he used to then maybe I'll reevaluate, but right now I refuse to drink the Kool-Aid that Evan will come in and save the day," McDermott said. "I think it's up to us to save the day. We have great candidates in Indiana and we'll find one in 2016 and we'll run that person."
McDermott said he expects his name will pop up as a potential 2016 gubernatorial candidate as it did prior to the 2012 election.
He did not rule out running saying, "You never know." But he noted 2016 is still three years away and said lots of things can happen in the world of politics between now and then.