State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, sure is acting like a candidate running for Indiana's Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

In the past three weeks, he's traveled to Indianapolis, Lafayette, Fort Wayne and Evansville, as well as East Chicago, Valparaiso and Michigan City, to participate in "Hoosier Community Conversations" — often while standing in front of an "Eddie Melton for Indiana" sign.

He's still due to visit South Bend, Hammond, Bloomington, Terre Haute, Brookville, Muncie, Anderson and Jeffersonville all before Labor Day.

But according to Indiana's campaign finance reporting system, Melton's thousands of miles on the road only are in his role as a state senator representing Lake County, not as a statewide candidate.

So far Melton has not filed any paperwork indicating that he's a candidate for governor, or exploring a run, despite announcing June 4 in Gary that he would be forming a gubernatorial exploratory committee.

Orrin Evans, Melton's political strategist, said there's really no need to open a gubernatorial committee, or launch a formal exploratory bid, since the donation limits and other legal requirements largely are the same as the "Friends of Eddie Melton" Senate committee.

"Based on advice from the secretary of state's office, as well as legal counsel, it was not deemed necessary that Eddie open a new committee, as he currently has an officeholder committee as a state senator," Evans said.

"If he chooses to formally announce for governor, then he will file as a statewide candidate and file a gubernatorial committee."

Under Indiana law, a person is a candidate for elected office, and subject to state campaign finance reporting requirements, when he or she raises or spends $100 in pursuit of an elected office.

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But state law doesn't mandate that a candidate with an open campaign committee immediately reorganize it if the candidate is contemplating running for a different office, according to the secretary of state's office.

It's not usual to do so, however.

In 2015, when state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, and Glenda Ritz, then-state superintendent of public instruction, each announced gubernatorial bids, they changed their existing campaign committees within days to indicate the new office they were seeking, and changed them back after they dropped out of the race.

By not making the change, Melton did not have to file a campaign finance report July 15 showing how much money he's raised and spent so far this year, as other statewide candidates, such as Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, were required to do.

Instead, Melton's continuing status as an Indiana Senate candidate means he just has to submit one report in January 2020 listing all of his fundraising and spending for 2019.

Evans said fundraising has not been a priority on Melton's statewide listening tour, and Melton currently is not doing any email fundraising typical of statewide and national candidates.

In any case, Evans said any money Melton is raising and spending in connection with his listening tour eventually will be reported as required by law.

"That will all be public," Evans said. "Everything will be disclosed."

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