Flying in the face of conventional wisdom, it seems that Indiana has a race for governor on its hands. Barack Obama’s refusal to concede Indiana in his national race for the presidency has made this a potential swing state and raised the possibility that Indiana could go for a Democrat for the first time since 1964.
But then, Hoosiers are well-known ticket splitters and so even if Obama should prevail here there is still a question as to whether his coattails will be long enough to enable Democratic challenger Jill Long Thompson to upset incumbent Republican Mitch Daniels.
Daniels began the campaign season with enough money to begin running television commercials before the primaries began.
Long Thompson, on the other hand, had to beat Jim Schellinger, an Indianapolis architect who had the support of the state’s Democratic establishment.
But while Long Thompson managed to win her primary race, her victory was thanks to a campaign that was long on tenacity but arguably lacking in fire or creativity. The result is that Indiana’s gubernatorial race, while close, has not been a dogfight. With the exception of Libertarian Andy Horning, who, as usual, has played the contrarian, the candidates on the ballot for governor have made the race more about approaches to leadership than a high contrast battle over issues.
For his part, Daniels has been content to make the election a referendum on the job he has done to this point. A visit to his Web site provides an exhaustive scorecard listing the many promises Daniels made in 2004 — and since — from expanding access to kindergarten to overhaul of the environmental regulatory system, balanced budgets to property tax protection, followed, in bold type, by the word “Done” after each one.
As governor, Daniels responded to the property tax crisis of 2007 by temporarily freezing rates, ordering reassessments and proposing House Bill 1001, capping residential property taxes at 1 percent of assessed value and raising the state sales tax by 1 percent.
By convincing the Legislature to lease the Northern Indiana Toll Road for $3.8 billion, Daniels was able to generate funding, dubbed “Major Moves,” necessary to begin construction of Interstate I-69 between Evansville and Indianapolis, and to pay for other, assorted highway projects. Ground was broken on the new terrain I-69 route in July.
Privatization of state services and resources emerged as a major strategy employed by Daniels to either save tax dollars or create revenue. The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration signed a 10-year, $1.16 billion deal with IBM to upgrade the state’s welfare, Medicaid and food stamp services.
Daniels wants to lease the Hoosier Lottery to a private company and use the proceeds of the lease to fund $6,000 scholarships to students qualified to attend Ivy Tech Community College, a state college or university. He also wants the Legislature to fund all-day kindergarten.
Meals and medical services in Indiana prisons have also been privatized under Daniels.
For her part, Long Thompson has made her opposition to Daniels’ emphasis on privatization the centerpiece of her campaign. She has pledged to conduct a thorough review of all of Daniels’ privatization initiatives.
But Long Thompson supports the I-69 project and has said she doubts that the toll road lease can be overturned.
Long Thompson would reinstate collective bargaining for state public employees (eliminated by Daniels), suspend the sales tax on fuel and implement a three-pronged approach to try and prevent home foreclosures.
Like Daniels, Long Thompson supports full-day kindergarten. She wants to lower the state high school drop-out rate by allowing high school seniors to stay in school a fifth year to earn their diplomas.
Long Thompson would also establish a health insurance purchasing pool to enable small businesses and individuals in the state to purchase health insurance in bulk.
Horning is running against government itself. On his Web site he states, “I intend to run government as if it is a dangerous threat; proven by history to be the agent of oppression, slavery, genocide and war. Government has never been our friend; it has always been us versus them in the most Machiavellian fashion … We must either amend the Constitution to legitimize all the unjust, illegal spending, illegal taxing and illegal breach of civil rights, or just stop doing those abusive, destructive things.”
Horning has spoken out against the I-69 interstate highway project. He is also opposed to public-private partnerships, preferring to leave most services up to the market.
One of the first things Daniels accomplished as governor in 2005 was to get Indiana on daylight-saving time. This change, Daniels argued, would provide the state with an economic boost. But earnings per job in Indiana remain below the national average and, while Indiana’s unemployment rate is lower than neighboring states, new jobs have yet to make up for the massive hit Indiana has taken to its manufacturing base.
Long Thompson thinks the state’s issues with the time of day still need resolution. She’s for a non-binding statewide referendum that could determine not only whether we continue springing forward and falling back, but whether or not the state should share a single time zone.
Horning is against daylight-saving time. His position: “Leave your clock alone.”
To learn more about the gubernatorial candidates’ views on the issues facing Indiana, go to their Web sites.
Gov. Mitch Daniels:
Jill Long Thompson: