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Democrat gubernatorial candidates address guests at annual J-J dinner

Many Southern Indiana Democrats heard first-hand from both gubernatorial candidates ‘ Jim Schellinger and Jill Long Thompson ‘ Saturday night at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, held at Corydon Central High School and attended by about 300 people.
The two outlined their platforms, which had many similarities, and asked for the voters’ support in the May 6 Primary. The winner will face Mitch Daniels, who is completing his first term in office as governor.
One promise both Schellinger and Thompson made is they would implement collective bargaining for the state if elected.
Schellinger has the support of former Indiana First Lady Judy O’Bannon, who introduced him at the dinner as a ‘nice guy’ and ‘a good businessman.’
‘I’m running because I know Indiana can and should be doing better in its leadership,’ said Schellinger, 47, who resides in Indianapolis with his wife, Laura, and three sons.
He contends that the current administration in the governor’s office is ‘arrogant’ and ‘disregards everything we do or say.’
But with a governor who will listen to the people of Indiana, Hoosiers will be put back to work, the state’s economy will be able to compete in the 21st century, there will be a focus on small businesses and education will be a priority, he said.
Schellinger, a native of South Bend and a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, vowed to work hard to fix the state’s tax problems and will improve health care, which ‘should be a right, not a privilege’ for Hoosiers.
‘There’s nothing we can’t solve by working together,’ Schellinger said. ‘I’ve never seen us so polarized. We need to come together.’
Schellinger is president of CSO Architects.
Thompson was introduced by Barbara Black, chair of the Harrison County Democratic Central Committee. ‘Jill has always done what she told me she would do,’ Black said.
Thompson, who served three terms as Indiana’s Fourth Congressional Representative, from 1989 to 1995, also spent more than five years as U.S. Under Secretary of Agricultural, from 1995 to 2001. Most recently, she served as CEO and Senior Fellow at the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business in 1974 from Valparaiso University, and, from Indiana University, her master’s in 1978 and Ph.D. in 1984, both also in business.
She said she became interested in politics at a young age, when she had the choice of ‘milking cows or going out and getting people registered to vote’ with her mother. She campaigned for John Kennedy when she was in the third grade.
Now, Thompson, 54, who resides in Argos with her husband, Don, wants to lead Indiana in a new direction of economic development.
‘Since Mitch Daniels has taken office, things have changed and for the worse,’ she said.
Thompson cited the state’s high school drop-out rate, at about 32 percent, and how health care costs ‘run higher than the rest of the country.’
She said that, historically, Indiana has a strong middle class when unions are strong. ‘And when the middle class is strong, you have a strong economy,’ she said.
In order ‘to grow the economy,’ Thompson said the No. 1 place to start is with a new tax structure that works for families and businesses.
She also wants to reform the state’s health care policy and the state’s No Child Left Behind program because ‘too many children are being left behind,’ she said.
Thompson said she favors bringing vocational programs back in to the schools, which will improve the graduation rate.
Several Harrison Countians commented they attended the dinner so they could hear the two candidates.
More information about both candidates can be found online. For Thompson, visit; for Schellinger, go to
Also during the evening, Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented by Black and Shawn Donahue to Dorothy Franks, Jesse Mathes and William T. (Bill) Nichols. They gave the Most Valuable Democrat awards to Edith and Brooks Richards.
On behalf of the Harrison County Young Democrats, Bethany Banet, the club’s president, and Nathan Kintner, vice chairman, presented awards to: Jennifer Kintner, for going ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty for the group, with the Young Democrat of the Year award; and Jesse Clark, co-founder of the Young Democrats club, with the Young Male Democrat award.
The Young Democrats prepared the meal, and the Corydon High Singers, under the direction of Daniel Suddarth, provided the entertainment. Carole Gaither led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Patricia Wolfe gave the invocation.
Joan Schickel read the list of names of Harrison County Democrats who died since last year’s program. They were Nelson Kennedy, Paul Chambers, Arthur Barks Jr., Russell and Thelma Toler, Irma Finn and Annis Barrow.
State Sen. Richard Young gave closing remarks for the program.