(INDIANAPOLIS) WISH — A state senator is defending a choice to team up with a Republican.
Sen. Eddie Melton, a Gary Democrat, and the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Republican Jennifer McCormick, began a 16-city listening tour a couple weeks ago. She is joining him on a few stops along the tour.
Melton is considering a run for governor of Indiana.
Melton said he made the right choice. “I’m just happy to partner and work with her.”
Weeks ago, some fellow Republicans questioned McCormick’s motives for teaming up with a Democrat.
“It’s very limited from what I’m hearing. Part of that came from, obviously, from party leadership and questioned my loyalty,” McCormick said July 11. “That’s one of those comments that I’ve been very clear … it doesn’t even require a response.”
“I’ve been working with Dr. McCormick the entire time she’s been in the legislature. She’s committed to children,” Melton said. “That’s the No. 1 priority. I commend her and her leadership. She has not stooped down to get into the weeds in debating individuals that are questioning her.”
So far, the pair have hosted listening tours in Indianapolis, Evansville, Fort Wayne and South Bend. The talks center around education, but, Melton said, people at the meetings also talk health care, jobs and teacher pay.
The National Education Association said Indiana is ranked 36th in average teacher salary for the 2017-2018 school year. “When we look at honoring and respecting our teachers, we have to do a better job. We have the slowest salary growth in the nation.” Melton said.
Melton also said he’s heard something unexpected on this tour.
“So far, we’ve been hearing a lot from individuals in the Republican Party. That’s been very interested in looking at new and fresh ideas. And also individuals looking to bring that civility and that camaraderie back as a state,” Melton said.
When the tour is done, Melton said, the plan is to take what he’s heard and summarize it from a policy perspective and bring it back to the Statehouse.
The tour with McCormick stops in Hammond on Tuesday and Bloomington on Thursday.