INDIANAPOLIS —Jennifer McCormick, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, broke rank with her Republican party when she announced she is backing Dr. Woody Myers, the Democratic candidate for governor, over the incumbent Gov. Eric Holcomb.
McCormick has challenged her own party on issues ranging from charter schools to teacher pay in her tenure and has announced support for other Democrats in this election season. But the question is will it make a difference?
The timing of the endorsement and the significant gap in campaign funds mean it is unlikely to sway the outcome of the election.
Myers’ campaign had $70,000 remaining while Holcomb had over $8 million. Both reporting periods ended on June 30, according to www.campaignfinance.in.gov.
Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue University Fort Wayne, said that political figures and organizations strategically choose to endorse candidates that they want to win elections; or choose not to endorse more unfavorable candidates.
In the case of McCormick, this endorsement is unique because she chose to cross party lines. Downs said moves like this could be made to condemn the candidate that is not endorsed — in this case, Holcomb.
McCormick told the Indianapolis Star she chose Myers because of his intellect, concern and commitment to education and that under his leadership school will get the support and resources to meet their challenges.
The next elected governor will have the job of appointing McCormick’s replacement, as the Indiana General Assembly decided to change the position from an elected one to an appointed one. The change was made after the Republican McCormick announced in fall of 2018 that she would not run for a second term.
“It’s not surprising that a Democrat is endorsing a Democrat,” said Jake Oakman, communications director for the Indiana Republican Party. “Jennifer has been angling for a position in a possible future Democrat administration for months now.”
Earlier in the year, before the COVID-19 pandemic halted most political and social interactions, McCormick joined state Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, on an education listening tour as Melton was contemplating a run for governor. Ultimately, Melton decided against running.
An endorsement matters most when voters are undecided, said Laura Wilson, assistant professor of political science at the University of Indianapolis. Wilson also said that the timing of an endorsement is important, as an early endorsement can be forgotten and a late one will not affect the election.
“Endorsements are going to encourage people who are on the fence or not quite sure,” Wilson said. “People who already know who they want to vote for aren’t likely to change their minds due to an endorsement.”
While the endorsement by McCormick is significant historically because she crossed the party line, Wilson said, but many endorsements are more expected.
“It’s polite,” Wilson said. “It’s a recognition of ‘here’s this person that’s running that I think is great.’”
Wilson and Downs said that the barriers of going up against an incumbent and having less campaign funding probably means McCormick’s endorsement of Myers will not change the outcome of the election.
Holcomb is endorsed by police and firefighter groups, building, construction and realtor organizations, and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
Myers’ campaign for governor is supported by presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, Indiana progressive groups, and several federations and unions supporting workers.
The general election, including the Indiana gubernatorial race, is Nov. 3. Early voting begins on Oct. 6.