Gov. Eric Holcomb has been a refreshing departure from former Gov. Mike Pence, but he has a long way to go to establish himself as one of Indiana's best.
Holcomb announced this month that he's running for reelection in 2020. A second term could establish him as more than just a welcome relief from Pence, whose missteps included a move to establish a state news organization and support of a bill that would have enabled businesses to deny services to gay people.
While Pence, our current vice president, is a dyed-in-the-wool holier-than-thou conservative, Holcomb is more moderate in every way. He's pleasant and gregarious, and he manages to be both affable and sincere. In short, he's easy to like.
The hallmark projects of Holcomb's governorship, thus far, have been his Next Level roads and jobs programs, pumping tax money into Hoosier highways, economic development and workforce training.
Holcomb has also moved to improve the state's embattled Department of Child Services and to combat the opioid abuse crisis, but he's had mixed results. In fairness, most states have struggled to come to grips with the opioid scourge, which seems to be abating finally. Indiana's DCS, meanwhile, remains broken, and Holcomb hasn't gone far enough to fix it.
The governor's most glaring shortcoming falls in the area of education reform. His program to hike teacher pay is too modest, and he's failed to recognize the urgency of accelerating the quality of education in Indiana. Meanwhile, early childhood education opportunities aren't increasing quickly enough to assure that all Hoosier children get a head start on learning.
So, the challenge before Holcomb is to lay out a more aggressive agenda for the second term he's seeking.
We know he's a nice guy who means well, and he's proved himself to be an effective governor in many ways. But can Eric Holcomb be the visionary leader Hoosiers need and deserve?
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