The last time a woman ran for governor in Indiana was the 2008 general election. Jill Long Thompson lost to Mitch Daniels by over 17 percent of the popular vote. The loss in that gubernatorial race was completely overshadowed by the joy Democrats experienced that year from the presidential race. Indiana was purple, thanks to Barack Obama narrowly carrying the state for a Democratic win, the first one since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.
One woman declared
In 2016 the national and state climate will be different. And another woman has set her sights on the governor's office. Karen Tallian has been in the Senate chamber of the statehouse since 2005. She took over the last year of Rose Ann Antich-Carr. Carr vacated her seat after 15 years in office to become the clerk-treasurer of Merrillville. Tallian won re-election in 2006, 2010 and 2014. In that last election she was unopposed.
It was also after that last election in 2014 that she began to consider a different office in the statehouse.
"There was a time when John Gregg was saying that he was 'out' and no other person who was a viable choice had stepped up. Frankly, it seemed like an impossible road," said Tallian. "But I kept saying someone has to speak for at least 48 to 50 percent of the state of Indiana because I really did not believe that the entire state of Indiana was as right wing as Mike Pence is."
- Sen. Karen Tallian
Following RFRA and a multitude of other blunders with Pence at the helm, that once impossible road has a new surface that could lead to change. Pence's approval rating is at an all-time low and members of the Republican Party have been very outspoken about supporting other candidates.
"I think there are a lot of people that sort of smell blood in the water now," she laughed.
The tide has shifted so much that 2012 candidate John Gregg is running again, even though he had indicated he probably would not following his loss to Pence. Others names like Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, have also circulated as possible contenders for governor.
Despite the potentially crowded primary field, Tallian believes because she is the right person at the right time because she represents the progressive voice in Indiana that exists but is underrepresented.
"It's got a long history – the progressive movement — starting back into the late 1800s and early 1900s," said Tallian. "They passed women's suffrage. They passed the direct election of senators. They passed income tax. They did a lot of grassroots organizing."
"Progressive" is a moniker Tallian wears proudly because it reflects who she is and what she is about: moving Indiana forward and making progress for the majority.
"I think "progressive" now is in contrast to the kind of Koch-brothers-big-business-rule ideas," said Tallian. "It gets back to what everyone is talking about in the 99 percent, which is the biggest population of the American public."
And she adds "progressive" can mean different things to different people based upon where they live and the challenges they face. For us in Indiana, where the political climate has moved so far to the right, being dead center is progressive.
And those are the Hoosiers she hopes to reach.
Tallian is looking forward to carrying her message across the state over the next year, attending gatherings and dinners to reach the Democratic base and utilizing social media to help collect the 500 signatures in each congressional district she will need to get her name on the ballot in 2016.
She also intends to roll out her agenda and plans for the state in the form of the bills she will file in the next legislative session.
"I have the advantage in that I will be in the middle of my current term as state senator next January," said Tallian. "I really have nothing to lose."