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Democrat Myers says Indiana ‘ready for a change’ in governor

February 7, 2020 GMT
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Business executive Woody Myers speaks to the media as he hands over paperwork to put his name on the Democratic primary ballot for Indiana governor at the Statehouse in Indianapolis on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Myers will be the only Democrat seeking the party's nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb this year after tech business leader Josh Owens dropped out the race Wednesday and endorsed Myers.(AP Photo/Tom Davies)
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Business executive Woody Myers speaks to the media as he hands over paperwork to put his name on the Democratic primary ballot for Indiana governor at the Statehouse in Indianapolis on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Myers will be the only Democrat seeking the party's nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb this year after tech business leader Josh Owens dropped out the race Wednesday and endorsed Myers.(AP Photo/Tom Davies)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Health care business executive Woody Myers filed paperwork Friday to challenge Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, becoming the lone Democrat to qualify for the ballot in a bid to break the GOP’s 16-year hold on Indiana’s top office.

Myers became the last Democrat standing for the May primary after tech business leader Josh Owens dropped out the race Wednesday and endorsed Myers. He will be the first African American to appear on either the Democratic or Republican ticket in the state as a candidate for governor or lieutenant governor.

Myers said he would focus his campaign on improving the state’s education and health care systems, job creation and tackling environmental problems.

“I just truly believe that Hoosiers are ready for a change,” Myers said. “Hoosiers know that the leadership that we have today isn’t working for most Hoosiers. Those at the top of the food chain are doing really well, but the rest of the state is not.”

Holcomb’s campaign touts what it calls record job commitments and infrastructure investments around the state since he became governor in 2017.

Myer, a 65-year-old Indianapolis native with degrees from Stanford and Harvard, is a doctor who gained prominence as Indiana’s state health commissioner in the 1980s 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.

State Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer, who is Holcomb’s campaign manager, took a swipe at Myers’ moves around the country.

“I know Woody Myers has spent a lot of time outside of Indiana the last 30 years, so he doesn’t know that Hoosiers like what Republican leadership has meant to our state,” Hupfer said in a statement. “Indiana is on a roll and Governor Holcomb isn’t taking his foot off the gas. Unemployment is down, wages are up, job commitments are up and Governor Holcomb is just getting started.”

Myers maintains he is a third-generation Hoosier who has always kept close ties to Indiana.

“I know this state, I care about this state,” he said. “So, I’m not going to let those kind of things deter us from where we need to go.”

Holcomb has a big front-runner advantage as he seeks reelection and started this year with about $7.25 million in his campaign account, while Myers reported raising only $180,000 last year.

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 repeated Friday that he wouldn’t be self-funding his campaign for governor and will now be accelerating his fundraising work without having to worry about a primary campaign.

“We’re going to do everything we can to be successful,” Myers said. “This state really needs to change.”