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INDIANAPOLIS | House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, will not join the increasingly crowded Democratic primary contest for Indiana governor.

The nine-term state representative told The Times on Wednesday he reached that decision after several months of intensely considering the race and despite strong encouragement from supporters across the state urging him to throw his hat in the ring.

"I believe any seriously contested primary would hamper our ability to recapture the governor's office, and I think it would be an added barrier to making the legislative gains that we think are possible," Pelath said. "I think that we need to be working toward narrowing the field, rather than expanding it."

Already former House Speaker John Gregg, the 2012 Democratic nominee, and state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, have announced they're running for governor.

Glenda Ritz, the state superintendent of public instruction, is expected to declare — possibly as soon as next week — that she also plans to compete in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Pelath said his joining the race and turning it into four-way "primary free-for-all" would not be helpful to the overall Democratic goal of making Indiana a place where people want to live.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who won in 2012 with only 49 percent of the vote in a three-way contest, is believed to be vulnerable in 2016 following recent policy missteps on religious freedom and other issues that have diminished his popularity among Hoosier voters.

At the same time, no elected governor has lost his bid for a second term since Indiana in 1972 began allowing incumbents to seek re-election.

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Statehouse Bureau Chief

Dan has reported on Indiana state government for The Times since 2009. He also covers casinos, campaigns and corruption.