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Thursday, December 7, 2023

RECORDER EXCLUSIVE: Reflections with Dr. Woody Myers

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Editor’s note: Dr. Woody Myers, former Democratic candidate for governor, sat down with the Recorder for a one-on-one interview following the election. Responses have been edited for brevity.

Conceding to incumbent Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb just over an hour after polls closed Nov. 3, Dr. Woody Myers shared with supporters why he initially ran for governor.

“I knew we could be better and do more and work with those who have so little and need so much,” Myers said. Rep. Linda Lawson, Myers’ pick for lieutenant governor, expressed disappointment, saying Hoosiers missed an opportunity. “The best team was here,” she said.

With 99% of the estimated ballots counted in Indiana, Holcomb beat Myers by roughly 25 percentage points. Libertarian candidate Donald Rainwater garnered 11% of the vote, making him the most successful third-party candidate for governor in modern state history.

In his own right, Myers made history as Indiana’s first Black gubernatorial candidate from either party. In 2020, the former state health commissioner was the only Black man running for governor in the United States, and one of two doctors running.

With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise throughout the state, Myers said he will continue to speak out on, as he put it, Holcomb’s failed pandemic response. After 16 months on the campaign trail, though, he’s looking forward to taking some time off.

Indianapolis Recorder: On election night, you said you thought your election was a long shot. That being said, what are you most proud of regarding your campaign?

Dr. Woody Myers: I’m very proud of the team we put together and the way we addressed the important issues. I’m proud of the policies we put out for the people of the state. I’m proud of how we stood up for individuals at the bottom of the economic ladder, and I’m proud of what we did to engage the current administration for their failed coronavirus response. You can see today’s news and see that this was a failed response. [Indiana currently has 214,509 reported cases of COVID-19.]

IR: Do you have any plans to run again in four years?

WM: No (laughs). My only plan is to try to get more sleep and clean my desk and do all those things I haven’t done for a year. I haven’t even changed my clocks for daylight saving time. We’re going to do the holidays virtually this year, so we’re figuring out how to do that. I’ll make some decisions down the road, but I don’t want to make any fast decisions.

IR: Looking back, is there something you would have done differently, and in what areas do you think your campaign fell short?

WM: Well, we fell short by not getting enough votes. I think that again the polls were misleading in both directions. My faith in polling has decreased since 2016, and has decreased even further now. It’s hard to read the mood of voters, and folks are so polarized. I just know that we have got to do a better job of bringing people together in this society, and that has to be a bipartisan effort. I think that’s part of the message Joe Biden is trying to get across, that we have to be more cooperative and collaborative, and I agree with that.

IR: Is there anything specific you think ought to be done to bridge some of the gaps that have been exacerbated over the past several years?

WM: For starters, the one party dominance in this state has got to end. We didn’t get that done this election, but there’s another one coming up in two years. Hoosiers need to understand that if you give one party all the power for a long time, it will ultimately be abused as it has been here.

IR: Obviously, there’s a limit to what you can do without being governor, but with COVID-19 cases on the rise, is there anything you’re planning to do to help combat the pandemic?

WM: Anything I do now has to be as a physician and as a citizen. I’m no longer a candidate and no longer have the public forum I had before. I’ll still speak out and make my thoughts clear and known at the same time. For now, though, I just need to take a breather and figure out how to close out our campaign and tie up the loose ends. I have no doubt I’ll continue to use my voice, because our state still needs so much.

IR: Donald Rainwater polled very high for a third-party candidate. As a Democrat, are you concerned this success could take votes from your party in the future?

WM: No, I’m not. I think Donald Rainwater struck a note that has been pushed very hard by folks that are not scientifically informed and don’t understand the devastating effects of COVID. Many in the Republican Party have framed wearing a mask as a political statement, and if you’re not wearing one, you’re defying the authorities. People who are uncomfortable wearing a mask and don’t understand public health and are not fans of science bought into [the Rainwater campaign]. Unfortunately, they abandoned logic and went with an emotional, political response that I thought was just wrong. We have to get the public back in a frame of trusting science.

IR: There’s a tendency for people to get very involved in local and national politics during election season, and then let officials off the hook afterward. Do you have any advice to your supporters as to how they can keep the momentum going?

WM: The organizations that have become energized in the latter part of our campaign, like Nasty Women of Indiana, they have to keep going. Nasty Women has over 50,000 members, and there’s a group called Indiana Educators United who care about K-12 education and want change. Keeping those groups going on social media is an important activity. I would encourage them to stay alert, stay active, and if you see something, say something. … Keep that energy going.

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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