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Wednesday, June 19
The Indiana Daily Student

city politics

“I am running for governor, and I am going to win,” Jennifer McCormick campaigns solo at town hall for reproductive health care

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Jennifer McCormick paced the Banneker Community Center gymnasium Thursday evening, shaking hands with audience members and giving hugs to supporters toting buttons and T-shirts with her namesake. As time neared the town hall’s 7:30 p.m. start time, every seat labeled with the names of each Indiana gubernatorial candidate would remain empty, except hers.  

The Indiana superintendent of public instruction from 2017-2021, McCormick is now running as the only Democratic candidate in the 2024 gubernatorial election. In the second sequence of her three-part series of town halls, McCormick hosted a “Town Hall on Reproductive Rights” in Bloomington. Fishers, Indiana was the location for the first town hall 7-8 p.m., Wednesday, and the next would take place 7-8 p.m., April 29, in Merrillville, Indiana.  

State Senator Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington made opening remarks at 7:40 p.m., asking candidates to take their seats for the town hall to begin.  

Senator Mike Braun, Brad Chambers, Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch, Eric Doden, Curtis Hill, and Jamie Reitenour are all on the republican primary ballot. Donald Rainwater is also campaigning for governor as a libertarian. All were invited to participate in McCormick’s town hall, though none made an appearance in Bloomington. 

“Whether or not we like to admit it, reproductive justice reaches beyond just reproductive healthcare,” Yoder said. “It reaches to education, it reaches to economic benefits for the state of Indiana, it reaches to the quality of our health care on whether or not we can attract providers. Tonight’s discussion is essential.”  

Shalya George, member of Bloomington’s Commission on the Status of Women and moderator of the town hall, recognized the sensitivity of the night’s topic and reminded audience members of expectations for respect. Notecards and pens were dispersed, encouraging those in attendance to write their own questions to be asked. 

When McCormick was invited to make her opening statement, she thanked the audience members, candidates and elected public officials present. She emphasized the need to take down the state’s one-party supermajority rule and restated the threat that other rights could be taken away. 

“When I say rights and freedoms, I am not just talking about reproductive rights and freedoms, I am talking about our rights and freedoms period.” McCormick said. “You take one away, there are a lot more to follow.”  

Over the next hour, George asked McCormick a series of questions, including how she would support initiatives which promote reproductive justice for marginalized communities. 

One third of counties in Indiana don’t have access to an OBGYN McCormick claimed, which was confirmed by data from the Indiana Maternal Mortality Review Committee 2022 Annual Report which revealed that 34 of Indiana’s 92 counties were identified as lacking a hospital with inpatient delivery services.  

“There is a huge disparity between the haves and have-nots,” McCormick said. “Based on your zip code, based on your skin color, based on your social economics – that’s the reality of Indiana. We can address it, but we have to have a governor that will stand up and say, ‘That third of our counties that doesn’t have access to an OBGYN is ridiculous.’” 

McCormick was also asked to address that she was affiliated with the Republican party until 2021. McCormick said she campaigned initially as a Republican due to her past fiscal responsibility. Once she arrived at the statehouse, however, McCormick said “it was made clear” her values didn’t align with the Republican party. She said during her time in office, she always stayed true to herself and made bipartisan efforts.  

Republicans have held a supermajority in the Indiana Senate since 2010 and the House since 2012, meaning the party controls more than two-thirds of seats. The state of Indiana has also not had a Democratic governor since Joseph E. Kernan’s term ended in 2005.  

McCormick also took stances in support of appropriate health and sex education in public schools, birth control, midwives, legalizing medical marijuana and even referendum voting. Throughout the town hall meeting, McCormick reinstated the importance of taking down the one-party supermajority, referencing states like Michigan and Kentucky as examples of major changes in party rule. She also claimed the current state of the hospital system as a monopoly and said that Indiana is in a health care crisis. 

Throughout the evening, McCormick emphasized approaching the agencies which the governor oversees, and the power of which those agency heads have to make decisions, such as in policies for how services and programs from organizations like Planned Parenthood are implemented.  

In her closing statement, McCormick touches on Medicaid, addressing an error which caused a near one-billion-dollar shortfall in Indiana’s Medicaid funding. As reported by the Associated Press, a December 2023 outlook found that Medicaid would need $984 million more than what was forecasted in April, which allowed $525 million to be moved from Medicaid into the state’s general fund. Data the forecast was based on did not reflect the latest needs of Indiana enrollees.  

McCormick said Medicaid’s budget and implementation plays a large role in everything that was discussed at the town hall.  

As governor, McCormick said she would fight for rights and freedoms and for everyday issues like good paying jobs, public education and ending environmental blackmail, which is defined as the promise of economic benefits in exchange for environmental and health risks to communities.   

“We cannot be uneducated and unhealthy and think that we can compete for anything,” McCormick said.  

Bloomington resident Pat Slabach, who attended the town hall, said she was particularly interested in reproductive health as she teaches sexual education at her church. Slabach said she was disappointed other candidates didn’t participate.  

“I feel like sometimes they write off Monroe County as not some place they feel like they need to invest time in,” Slabach said. “Or maybe they are worrying about us asking some tough questions.” 

Slabach was accompanied by Andi Haynes, who said she appreciated McCormick’s transparency regarding her change in political affiliation.  

“I appreciate her honesty about previously being a republican,” Haynes said. “She didn’t dodge that question about when and why she changed her mind. I think we need more of the republicans who are ‘sane’ — I think a lot of them are making it quietly — publicly say ‘Here is when I switched and why.’ I think her coming out with that is really important.”  

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