By The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — A longtime health care business executive hopes to turn his corporate experience into an asset as he seeks to unseat Republican Eric Holcomb from the Indiana governor's office next year.
Woody Myers announced his campaign Wednesday, becoming the first Democratic candidate to formally enter the 2020 gubernatorial race.
Myers, a doctor who was Indiana's state health commissioner in the 1980s, said he plans to focus his campaign on boosting education funding, improving the state's health care system and job creation.
"For too long as a state we've been satisfied with good enough," Myers said. "Well, in Indiana today, good enough is no longer good enough. As a state, we need to stop falling behind so our children can get ahead."
Holcomb hasn't yet announced his re-election plans, but he has collected more than $6 million for the race in the Republican-dominated state and has a campaign announcement set for Saturday in Knightstown. His campaign touts what it calls record job commitment and infrastructure investments since he became governor in 2017.
Myers spent nearly $1.8 million of his own money on an unsuccessful 2008 Democratic primary bid for an Indianapolis congressional seat, when he finished second to current U.S. Rep. Andre Carson. But Myers said Wednesday that he wouldn't be self-funding his campaign for governor, which could include two other Democrats.
"This campaign is going to cost a lot. So I'm going to have to convince a lot of our friends to dig deep and help us to make sure that we get the message out the way we need to," he said.
Myers gained prominence as state health commissioner by advocating for teenage AIDS patient Ryan White's right to attend a public school that sought to keep him out due to his illness.
Myers later became New York City health commissioner before holding a string of corporate executive positions, including at Indianapolis-based insurer Wellpoint Inc., Tennessee-based prison medical care provider Corizon Health and health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona.
"I've been a businessman, I've been involved in politics," Myers said. "I am a physician, I have been in state government and the public sector, I've been in the private sector, I've been in the not-for-profit sector. I don't know what else one could do to get better ready for this job other than what I've done over the last couple of decades."
The state Republican Party took a quick swipe at Myers, pointing to a February story by The Indianapolis Star about his condominium in the city's downtown Conrad Hotel building being listed for sale at $4.5 million. It remained on the market as of Wednesday.
"On the ground, Hoosiers see that Governor Holcomb is positively impacting lives every day," GOP spokesman Pete Seat said. "It may be hard to see from his $4.5 million penthouse in the Conrad, but it's what Woody will find as he travels across Indiana."
Republicans have won the past four Indiana governor's races and currently hold all statewide elected offices, along with more than two-thirds of the seats in both legislative chambers.
Democratic state Sen. Eddie Melton, of Gary, started a gubernatorial exploratory committee last month, while Democratic state Rep. Karlee Macer, of Indianapolis, is also considering running for governor.
Myers and Melton are black, and if either is nominated, he would be the first African American on the Democratic or Republican ticket for Indiana governor or lieutenant governor.
State Democratic Chairman John Zody said he doesn't know whether the party's nomination will be contested in the May 2020 primary.
"All of those folks have been talking for a number of months and we understand the importance of being united," Zody said. "So we're going to let this process play out."