INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A first-term state senator from northwestern Indiana is becoming the first Democrat to take formal steps toward a 2020 campaign for governor.
Sen. Eddie Melton of Gary was set to announce the formation of a gubernatorial exploratory committee during a Tuesday evening event at the Gary Teachers Union offices, according to his campaign.
Melton was elected to the Senate in 2016, joining the Legislature following an appointment by then-Gov. Mike Pence to the state Board of Education in 2015.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb hasn't yet said whether he'll seek election to a second term, but his campaign ended 2018 with about $4 million in the bank.
Melton has become the point person for Senate Democrats on education issues, pushing a plan during this year's legislative session that aimed at guaranteeing a minimum 5% raise for teachers by reducing state funding of vouchers for students attending private schools, eliminating proposed increases for charter schools and stretching out state payments toward a teacher pension fund.
The proposal was rejected by the Republican-dominated Senate, which backed a new state budget boosting base school spending by 2.5% each of the next two years.
Melton drew cheers from hundreds of teachers at a Statehouse rally in April when he criticized Republicans for looking to direct state money toward providing gun training for teachers but not guaranteeing them any pay raises.
"It is a shame that we live in a day when we have to fight whether to pay for teachers to be trained in shooting guns versus making sure they're receiving the dollars that they need to be assured they're not going to have to work two or three extra jobs," Melton said during the rally.
It is unclear how many other Democrats might seek the party's gubernatorial nomination.
State Rep. Karlee Macer of Indianapolis has said she is considering a statewide campaign but hasn't yet made a decision. Former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg, who was the party's 2012 and 2016 nominee, is the only Democrat with an active gubernatorial campaign committee registered with the state election division, but it reported raising less than $4,000 last year.
Melton is manager of corporate citizen and community relations for Merrillville-based Northern Indiana Public Service Co., which provides electric and natural gas service in much of the northern third of the state.
If Melton were to win the nomination in the May 2020 primary, he would become the first African American on the Democratic or Republican ticket for Indiana governor or lieutenant governor.