Apparently there comes a time when you no longer can turn the other cheek.

That seems to be the case with Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz.

Ritz, a Democrat, announced last week that she wants to take on Republican Gov. Mike Pence.

Ritz has been very open about her disdain for Pence, who has usurped her powers as the state’s chief education officer.

Not only does Ritz want to challenge Pence, but she also has shaken up the state’s beleaguered Democratic Party.

A year ago, with Pence riding a wave of conservatism that many Hoosiers embrace, Democrats had all but conceded Pence a second term.

But that was then, a time when it appeared there wasn’t a Democrat in Indiana willing to take on Pence.

John Gregg, who ran a strong race against Pence in 2012, had said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” to a second try.

But as Pence was capping a host of negatives with the “religious freedom” fiasco, Gregg had a change of heart.

Because of the religious freedom controversy, Pence no longer had presidential ambitions and seemed vulnerable in terms of a second term as governor.

Gregg wasn’t the only Democrat to notice. State Sen. Karen Tallian of Ogden Dunes also announced her candidacy.

And now it’s Ritz, who apparently doesn’t want to risk the possibility of serving another four years as education chief with Pence as governor.

So what are Democrats to do?

Does the party owe Gregg another try? Or, should Democrats embrace Tallian, who represents the liberal faction of the party?

Or is Ritz the Democrats’ best ticket back to mainstream Indiana?

I suppose one could answer yes to each of those questions.

I’ve heard suggestions that the party back Gregg and have Ritz be the lieutenant governor candidate. It’s an attractive proposition for Democrats, but there’s nothing in it for Ritz.

But Republicans have made Ritz a martyr, and that’s not something Democrats should take lightly.

Can Gregg beat Pence? Probably. Can Tallian beat Pence? Perhaps. Can Ritz beat Pence? Certainly.

Besides having drawn the sympathy of Hoosiers for the way she has been treated, Ritz would have the backing of teachers across the state – and that can be a powerful force.

And she would have the support of parents who don’t like politicians messing with the education system their kids are a part of.

If there are any naysayers, all they need to remember is that Ritz defeated Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett because teachers and parents didn’t like the way the GOP was playing politics with their schools.

But you say that Ritz would be running for governor and not an education position.

True, but education by far makes up the largest share of the state budget. And that should count for something.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjamescolumns@gmail.com. The opinions are the writer’s.


Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.