GREENFIELD — Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg had one message for local Democrats on Tuesday night: We’re going to win in 2016.
Gregg, who ran for the office in 2012 and narrowly lost to Gov. Mike Pence, was the keynote speaker at the annual Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner. Pence is seeking re-election.
Local party leaders and members said Gregg’s attendance at the event had area residents looking ahead to 2016; there are no Democrats on the ballot for this fall’s municipal election.
Gregg told about 100 Democrats he’s running again for governor to serve all Hoosiers, saying it’s important everyone feels welcome in the state.
“It’s an exciting time to be a Hoosier,” he said. “It would be a better time if we had a governor to take care of business.”
His speech — which took a few jabs at Pence’s career — was met by applause and “amens” from party faithfuls.
As governor, Gregg said he would end the war on organized labor and public education, create jobs that help Hoosiers earn a living wage and improve Indiana’s infrastructure.
In the 2012 race, he received 47 percent of the vote; in 2016, he’s looking to capture the majority, he said.
“I see an Indiana that’s looking at a new horizon, but we’ve got to have a governor who is looking at that horizon,” he said. “Our best days are ahead of us. … We’re going to win this election.”
Currently, Gregg is the only Democrat expected to be on the ballot; state Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and Sen. Karen Tallian, D- Portage, threw their names in the race but withdrew from it last month.
The Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner is the largest event the Hancock County Democratic Party hosts each year, and it doubles as the party’s biggest fundraiser.
Funds raised help support the party and its candidates, party chairman Phil Hunt said. The dinner also serves as a time for the party to rally together and support those seeking office. Hunt told Democrats he wants the party to help Gregg get elected.
Gregg, a former university president who served 16 years in the Indiana House of Representatives (six of which as House speaker), traveled from Sandborn — a southern Indiana town located about 120 miles from Greenfield — to be with Democrats Tuesday night.
“We’re tickled to death to have John Gregg here with us tonight,” Hunt said. “We appreciate him coming up.”
Gregg said he’ll spend the next 14 months attending similar events across Indiana in an effort to meet Hoosiers and gain votes.
He likes attending Democrat dinners because it gives him a chance to meet party leaders across the state and visit with old friends, he said.
“The main issues are the same statewide, but there are always different local issues,” he said. “There are so many opportunities here for Hancock County.”
Lynn Wybiral, a party member, said she’s looking forward to 2016, and Gregg’s address made her more excited to see what the future holds for the state and Hancock County.
“I think he just hits on all the basic issues that are important to all Hoosiers, no matter where we’re from. The comment that he’s running to serve everyone, that’s key to me, because I feel the same way,” she said.
U.S. Senate candidate John Dickerson was also at the dinner. He said the current Senate isn’t getting enough done, so he’s running to change that.
“We have to fight to restore our confidence in what is right,” he said. “We will win this election, and we will win up and down the ballot.”