FORT WAYNE – Democrats in Fort Wayne on Saturday stressed their ability to seek bipartisan solutions while labeling their opponents extreme partisans.
The party conducted its state convention at Grand Wayne Center, the first time it has been conducted outside Indianapolis in nearly a century.
During the three-hour general session, governor nominee John Gregg laid the foundation for what would be a consistent message: Democrats are willing to work with and for all Hoosiers while the Republican candidates are fringe idealogues.
He focused his early comments on attacking Republican governor candidate Mike Pences record in Congress, calling him a man who puts extreme partisan ideology above all else.
Hoosiers have a better choice, Gregg said. We will focus on creating jobs and strengthening the economy.
Despite talking to a room of Democrats, Gregg called on the attendees to reach out to people of all political persuasions, particularly people he dubbed Dick Lugar Republicans. He said those moderates have been disenfranchised by their party and should be encouraged to support candidates who will work toward compromise and bipartisanship.
During the convention, the party officially nominated state Sen. Vi Simpson to run for lieutenant governor, Glenda Ritz to run for superintendent of public schools and Kay Fleming to run for attorney general. None of the races was contested. Melissa Ann Hicks of Fort Wayne had tried to run for state superintendent, but was not allowed to do so after pondering a run as a Republican last year.
There were 1,409 delegates at the convention, compared with about 2,000 two years ago in Indianapolis.
The convention did include a few policy resolutions, such as opposing candidates who would support legislation that would hurt working families, such as right to work, and starting an effort to repeal the U.S. Supreme Courts Citizens United ruling.
The vast majority of the three-hour session, however, was focused on political speeches vilifying Republicans as the party of division and touting Democrats as the party of cooperation.
Simpson said voters need to put progress ahead of partisanship.
Indiana nees leaders who can work for all Hoosiers, she said.
Ritz found a popular enemy in Republican schools chief Tony Bennett, saying people who think he has failed in his leadership must work to ensure she succeeds in replacing him.
We must do better for our children, she said.
State Party Chairman Dan Parker, however, found an even more popular opponent by deriding the tea party and Republican candidates seeming subservience to it.
Mike Pence gave birth to the tea party, Richard Mourdock is crazier than the tea party, and Mitt Romney is afraid of the tea party, he said to great applause.