Sounds like someone’s been listening to the occasional Glenda Ritz for governor rants that come from mouths of Hoosiers frustrated by Statehouse efforts to undercut the lone, duly-elected Democrat in a Statehouse office.
After a long, lonely session, one where Ritz and her friends in an overmatched Democratic minority at the Statehouse had to fend off a semester’s worth of Republican power grabs, the superintendent of public instruction said she might be game for taking on Gov. Mike Pence in 2016.
“There’s absolutely nothing off the table,” Ritz told reporters a day after legislators limped home and the same day Democrat John Gregg announced he’d make another run for governor in 2016.
Maybe nothing’s off the table.
So why is it so hard to shake the idea that what Ritz is contemplating is similar to watching a restaurant toy with the notion of expansion before it’s really established itself in the current location.
You know the spot: Even if service can be shaky at times, you like what you order in a place that understands its strengths. But once that place starts to overreach, expanding the menu or opening a second location before it’s really ready, nine times out of 10 it’s not going to end well.
Ritz could be that one in 10 who’s positioned to expand her brand from a life spent in education to one seeking to lead the state.
Her campaign themes practically wrote themselves this session, one dismissive blow after another from Republicans. Ritz’s critics alternated between doubts about her qualifications, frustrations over her ability to work with the State Board of Education and wariness about her willingness the reverse trends in testing, vouchers for private schools and other GOP-led school reform initiatives.
Her slogan is ready-made: Not Just a Librarian.
It would rank up there with My Man, Mitch.
And it will resonate with more Hoosiers than a Republican supermajority seems willing to believe.
Last-minute tweaks in Senate Bill 1 — a bill that will dilute some of Ritz’s authority by allowing the governor-appointed State Board of Education to elect its own chairman to control policy-making agendas — pushed the changes to 2017. That’s after the next superintendent election in 2016, giving Ritz a little breathing room.
Why that idea, pushed by voters ticked that their candidate was getting hip-checked mid-term, didn’t dawn on Republican leaders in the General Assembly until the waning hours is a mystery. (Same goes with why the General Assembly had to do last-minute surgery to remove a provision that would have transferred more authority over voucher schools from Ritz to Pence. Unbelievable.)
As it was, and as the session played out, the target on Ritz’s back was big and clear. And Pence always seemed to be the one lining up the arrow.
The fact that Ritz is surfacing as a credible option to Pence is a real indictment of the governor, who just a few months ago seemed willing to be courted to run for president. You know, as in: Of the United States.
Another year like this and Ritz might be able to ride a purely anti-Pence sentiment at the ballot box just as she rode an anti-Tony Bennett disgust in 2012. That year, a grassroots, teacher-led rebellion produced a stunning victory for Ritz over the incumbent architect of Indiana’s school reform movement.
Dave Bangert is a writer for the (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.