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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
GOP candidate Mike Pence greets running mate Sue Ellspermann on Tuesday in Fort Wayne.

Gregg selects state Sen. Vi Simpson for gubernatorial ticket

Will bring different constituencies to Democratic ticket

Charlie Nye | The Indianapolis Star
Democratic candidate for governor John Gregg and his running mate, Sen. Vi Simpson, stand outside the Statehouse.

– Veteran Democratic Sen. Vi Simpson joined John Gregg’s gubernatorial ticket Tuesday, giving up a 28-year career and leadership post in the Indiana Senate to energize the Democratic base.

“My entire public life has been about working with Hoosiers of different stripes, working across party lines, … to make Indiana a better place to live,” Simpson said. “This is the next step in that journey, and I’m going to hit the ground running.”

Simpson acknowledged that she and Gregg appeal to different constituencies and focused on the overall strength of the ticket representing all Hoosiers – liberal and moderate Democrats, independents and even Republicans tired of the tea party element.

“I did not have to look long. I did not have to look hard,” Gregg said, calling Simpson a “shining star.”

The Monroe County lawmaker is another southern Indiana voice in the race after GOP candidate Mike Pence on Monday chose Rep. Sue Ellspermann, R-Ferdinand, as his running mate.

“I respect anyone that’s willing to enter the political process in a new role,” Pence said at a Fort Wayne event. “We look forward to a civil and substantial debate over Indiana’s future with Speaker Gregg and Sen. Simpson.”

During Gregg’s speech introducing Simpson, he focused on the ideals they share – creating good-paying jobs, keeping college affordable, bipartisan cooperation, supporting teachers, solid public schools and access to health care.

But he also did not shy away from their differences, noting there is strength in a ticket that represents a whole spectrum of Hoosiers.

Before the pick, Gregg had positioned himself as a centrist who is an abortion rights opponent, pro-gun and supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

He also has proposed a business tax cut.

But Simpson appeals more to the Democratic base – an abortion rights female legislator who often advocates passionately against legislation that limits access to abortion or birth control. She also opposes the ban on gay marriage.

Gregg said the differences don’t matter because he isn’t going to govern based on social issues saying, “I’m about jobs.”

Simpson said she thinks it shows what kind of person Gregg is that he wants all viewpoints at the table.

“He doesn’t want me to be a yes man,” she said. “I have a voting record. He knows where I stand. I will continue to answer questions honestly about how I feel about those issues. There are differences. We admit it.”

Simpson has served in the Indiana Senate since 1984 and is the leader of the minority Senate Democrat caucus. She is up for re-election this year so running with Gregg means giving up her longtime seat.

She said she gave careful consideration before deciding to get out of her comfort zone. She was first approached by Gregg a few weeks ago. The two then had a meaningful discussion a week ago before she accepted the position.

Simpson’s candidacy means Indiana will likely see its third female lieutenant governor in a row in Indiana because both the Republican and Democratic ticket would have a woman in the job.

Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman holds the post under Gov. Mitch Daniels and Kathy Davis served under then-Gov. Joe Kernan previously.

The Libertarian lieutenant governor candidate is Brad Klopfenstein.

nkelly@jg.net

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