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Pelath won’t run for governor

House Democratic leader says ‘free-for-all’ primary is bad for party

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House Minority Leader Scott Pelath said he will not seek the Democratic nomination for governor even though the state is in need of a “new direction.”

Pelath said Democrats can’t afford a “free-for-all primary” that divides the party and hampers its winner’s ability to defeat incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Pence.

“That’s the number one priority,” Pelath told TheStatehouseFile.com on Wednesday.

Already, former House Speaker John Gregg, who narrowly lost to Pence in 2012, has said he’ll run. So has Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage. And state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has also said she’s thinking about a bid.

Pelath said those candidates need to come together with party leaders and settle on a nominee by the end of this year. Taking the race all the way to the May 2016 primary will only cost money and time the party can’t afford, he said.

“If we’re spending a lot of energy and resources, we’re going to have a hard time completing what’s already a very hard task: Unseating an incumbent governor,” Pelath said.

Pence is expected to announce his reelection bid at a GOP dinner next month. And Republican Bob Thomas, who owns car dealerships in Fort Wayne and Central Indiana, has said he might also run.

Pelath said Wednesday that he’ll continue to focus on winning legislative seats and managing the Democratic caucus in the House.

“We have very pressing problems in Indiana,” he said. “We need a new direction. We have an image we have to repair. That’s going to take a team and there’s plenty of work to go around.”

Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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