[EDITOR'S NOTE: The Word, central Indiana's LGBT monthly publication, is paying close attention to the 2016 election cycle. The Word's Political Editor, Rick Sutton, sat down with Indiana Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg for a recent interview, which is featured in the April issue. A similar interview or guest column has been requested of incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Pence. That request remains open. NUVO will reprint that interview or column, if it ever happens.]
Former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg is the Democratic nominee for governor. It's his second try — in 2012, his campaign ran afoul of the LGBT community for divisive statements regarding Indiana's then-pending Constitutional amendment on marriage.
After that hard-fought but losing campaign, Gregg considered his options and decided to seek the state's top job in 2016. As part of that process, one of his major considerations was LGBT civil rights —and he arrived at different conclusions than his 2012 campaign proclaimed.
In his downtown law office, Gregg answered multiple questions for The Word about his campaign and himself. His campaign website is www.greggforgovernor.com.
The Word: What single factor most-changed your stance on LGBT civil rights issues?
John Gregg: One, was my stepdaughter Stevie — who's a lawyer —sat me down and talked to me about everything. She went back in a legal sense, back to the cases against Blacks and whites marrying. Stevie clerked on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, so she's a scholar. She presented it to me ... like an attorney.
And the second thing was our minister. He said: 'look at this, folks know what we are against, but they don't know what we're for.' Boy, that just ... my wife and I still talk about that. It comes back to fairness ... Hoosiers do not like discrimination.
In fact, when Stevie made the legal argument ... it was also the right thing to do. But this is also a huge economic issue. Attracting and retaining talent, millennials, academic and business community — it's important to all of them. And I think back to my time as president of Vincennes University. We had trouble getting people to come to a town of 20,000, especially minorities. So if you add on another barrier, it becomes even more difficult.
This governor has embarrassed us. Hoosiers overwhelmingly don't believe in discrimination.
The Word: What would Gov. Gregg do for full LGBT civil rights, especially considering a reluctant Republican legislature?
Gregg: The first thing I would do as governor, would be to sign an executive order, within minutes of having been sworn in, granting LGBT protection to all of the 20,000-plus state employees. I'd go a step further and make sure the universities and quasi-governmental state agencies do it.
The second thing you do is, you speak out on that topic every chance you get, including the State of the State address.
Third, you enlist business leaders, community leaders, to have them speak on this topic also, and its importance to their future.
The fourth thing you do in addition is you work with folks all around the country to let them know Indiana is welcoming. It's going to take all of us. Our reputation has been hurt.
And also, any time a business is coming to Indiana, you want to know what their position is (on civil rights), and their record.
There are a lot of Republicans who don't like discrimination. Communities that want to pass local ordinances, you work with those mayors to help them get that done.
The Word: How would you address Indiana's brain drain?
Gregg: First, you've got to end discrimination. People don't want to move back here or come here if we discriminate or allow discrimination to continue.
Incentives for kids going to college. We've got to acknowledge that there's a skills gap in Indiana. We need to make sure that those students who don't want a four-year degree realize that they can be a tax-paying productive member of society. You can be successful without a bachelor's degree. We need electricians, cement masons, IT people and health care people, we need to pay attention to 'learn to earn' programs all through our schools.
Also important is quality of life issues. Green space, the environment, and quality of life issues are very important. We need to be a places where serious discussions on environmental issues occur.
The Word: What do you want to do in the education area as governor? The current situation is a mess — it doesn't look very cooperative.
Gregg: I'd work with the state school superintendent ... I would respect the wishes of the Hoosier voters.
The day I'm elected is when the war on public education stops. We have to have teachers and reformers sitting at that table. Teachers are going to be the ones implementing any change, and they have to be there. You cannot drive everything top-down, you've got to be inclusive.
We have to take a look at testing. I want accountability, but ... we've been doing a lot of testing that may not have been necessary.
The Word: What's different about this campaign for you, from 2012?
Gregg: Well, I'm experienced. I'd never been a statewide candidate before. I'm a better candidate.
This time I'm running against Mike Pence. In Indiana, if I get every Democratic vote, I get 42 percent of the vote. I have to have Republican votes to win. They have shown they will vote for Democrats. A lot of those people the last time (2012), because they really respected Gov. Daniels, they kind of thought they were getting a third (Daniels) term. Or a young Dick Lugar. They now realize that (Pence) is nothing but an ideologue. This time he has to run on his record. It's a record based on allowing discrimination to exist, it's no leadership on infrastructure, no leadership on crime and the drug problem.
Hoosiers want a leader. I may do some things that some folks won't like, but folks will realize, I'm prepared to make decisions and lead. I have the experience to make good decisions.
The Word: This is non-political but tell us about John Gregg's relaxing moments — what do you do to relax?
Gregg: I've never really had any hobbies. Not a golfer, anything like that. Really what I like to do is work ... relaxing work. I live on a farm, and I enjoy farm work. The thing that [wife] Lisa and I do, we're big gardeners. We sit down to many meals that we've prepared most of the food. We have our own beef and pork, but we can a lot of food. We've got a small orchard, we love having a big garden and we kind of relax by gardening. We don't have chickens or eggs, but our neighbors do.
The Word: Well, if you're successful, Zach (Indianapolis City-County Council Vice President Zach Adamson) and his husband Christian (Mosburg) raise chickens and they've got eggs.
Gregg: I'll remember that.