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How Donald Trump might be indirectly helping Glenda Ritz’s re-election chances

Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz speaking at Shortridge High School late last year.
Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz speaking at Shortridge High School late last year.
Scott Elliott

The air was a littler cooler and the sky a little more blue than it has been here in Indiana this morning, signaling the fast approach of Labor Day — and the start of the final push to the already weird and wacky Election Day 2016.

In the Hoosier state, Donald Trump’s choice of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his Republican running mate has really wrecked everyone’s expectation of the 2016 statewide races.

There were a couple more signals in the headlines over the weekend of the ripple effect on Indiana politics.

Everyone anticipated by the end of May that Trump at the top of the Republican ticket likely would change the usual election dynamics across the country. There was no question his presence would have some impact on the Hoosier state. But nobody knew it would be so direct.

When he picked Pence, Trump instantly changed the Republican message, for sure, but also the message of Democrats like John Gregg, who was running against Pence for governor, and state Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who is seeking re-election. Both had plans to try to use Pence’s record against him by highlighting his hostility to popular Democratic ideas on issues like civil rights and schools.

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But the battle over education in Indiana that burned white hot between Pence and Ritz could fizzle this fall. Consider the news this weekend.

Pence’s replacement — Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb — told the Indianapolis Business Journal he would work with Ritz and respect her office. His comments seemed to indicate that he agreed with critics who have argued those things had not been happening in recent years.

That is not a message we’ve heard from the Republican side of the fence in the last four years, and it’s good news for the Ritz campaign.

And if it sort of sounded like Holcomb thought Ritz was likely to be re-elected, there’s a reason for that.

The Indianapolis Star, following up and expanding on reporting by Chalkbeat, showed that Ritz’s opponent — Yorktown Superintendent Jennifer McCormick — is not only trailing Ritz badly when it comes to raising money, the Star’s reporting suggested her chances of catching up don’t look very good. Key potential McCormick supporters told the Star they were likely maxed out on their giving in the race.

That is a huge role reversal for Ritz, who was massively outspent when she pulled a historic upset of Tony Bennett in 2012.

To have Republicans citing Ritz’s 2012 win as reason to have hope that McCormick could pull a similar shocking upset, as one did in the Star’s story, suggests that Ritz is strongly in the driver’s seat in her race.

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