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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Gregg encourages discussion, cooperation at Democrat dinner

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

(Photo)
Forgoing the home-cooked fare at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, keynote speaker and Democrat gubernatorial nominee John Gregg takes a few moments to discuss the issues of the upcoming election with a group of voters. [Order this photo]
BAINBRIDGE -- Aside from those present, the most frequently mentioned politician at Tuesday's annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner was a bit of a surprise.

It wasn't either of the event's namesakes. It wasn't anyone named Bayh. It wasn't even President Barack Obama.

For that matter, it was not a Democrat.

In a recurring theme of the night of cooperation and reaching across party lines, multiple speakers mentioned recently-ousted Senator Richard Lugar.

"Dick Lugar got defeated for no other reason than he reached across the aisle," Democrat gubernatorial nominee John Gregg said in his keynote speech.

County Democratic Chairman Dave Bohmer echoed those sentiments in his introductory remarks.

"The shame on (the Republican) Party is that they've defeated a statesman and a class act like Richard Lugar," Bohmer said.

Even with the party faithful as his audience, Gregg spoke of dialogue with among the parties coupled with cooperation and compromise.

These were the same elements the Knox County native said made the Indiana General Assembly a success back when he was serving as Speaker of the House from 1996 through 2002. He cited former District 44 Representative Susan Crosby, who was in attendance Tuesday, among those who made things work when the Indiana House was divided 50-50 between the parties.

"We talked. We listened. We showed some respect," Gregg said.

Gregg indicated these traits separated himself and senate candidate Joe Donnelly from their competitors, Republicans Mike Pence and Richard Mourdock, respectively.

Of course, the differences still lie in the party lines as well. Women's health care rights, organized labor and opposition to Governor Mitch Daniels' education reforms were also on Gregg's mind.

The former president of Vincennes University, Gregg spoke perhaps most passionately about what he sees as a one-sided set of reforms from the governor. He questioned why more people haven't been consulted about the changes to education.

"Why isn't there a classroom teacher?" Gregg asked. "Why not a middle school principal? What about at superintendent?

"Here's a novel idea," he continued, "what about a parent?"

The other candidates who spoke echoed many of Gregg's themes for the night. U.S. House District 4 nominee Tara Nelson spoke about private business interests, particularly those of oil companies, steering policy in Washington.

"It's in our Constitution to regulate commerce -- not commerce regulating Congress," Nelson said.

Charles Bender, who is seeking the Indiana Senate District 24, questioned the school voucher system.

Indiana Senate District 37 nominee Jim Cahill and Indiana House District 44 nominee Rick Thompson, both union members, stressed the ability of unions to work with companies and questioned why the organizations have come under attack.

On the local level, Putnam County Auditor candidate Wilma Phipps said she was simply trying to bring some party competition back to Putnam County.

"I thought maybe this time we'd put some Democrats in there," she said.

Commissioner District 1 candidate Jeff Blaydes could not attend, but was represented by wife Judy and children Laura and Brian. Laura Blaydes closed the night by thanking everyone for their attendance and asking for support in her father's bid.

Just before the close of the event, Democratic Central Committee member Kyle Kerrigan made the surprise announcement that senate candidate Donnelly will be appearing at an event in Greencastle on Aug. 22. No further details are currently available.

Gregg was the main attraction on Tuesday, though. He left the Democrats in attendance with further words on reaching out and being ambassadors to their fellow Hoosiers, regardless of party allegiance.

"There are good men and women in the Republican Party. They do not identify with the extremists who have taken over their party," Gregg said. "These people will vote for a Democrat and I need you to reach out to them and tell them what we stand for."