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Sunday, June 30, 2019 1:00 am

Indianapolis rep weighs run for governor

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Karlee Macer might be on next year's ballot as a Democratic candidate for Indiana governor.

The state representative, who represents Indianapolis's west side, wouldn't say Saturday as she traveled to the Tri-State Cornfield Conference at the Noble County Fairgrounds in Kendallville.

“I'm not at a place where I'm fully ready to commit,” she said during a phone interview.

Macer might be forgiven for her reluctance to make it official. Her only son got married in May, and her only daughter is getting married Aug. 3 in Chicago. As Macer put it, there's a lot going on in her family this summer.

“I'm on the biggest mom high in my life,” she added.

Even so, the three-term state representative found time to attend the Cornfield Conference as a special guest. Democratic Party organizations in Noble, DeKalb, Kosciusko, Whitley and LaGrange counties hosted the event designed to fire up Democrats before the 2020 elections.

More than 20 speakers were scheduled to address attendees on topics including Midwest climate challenges, immigration, health care, voter registration, legislative redistricting, campaign fundraising and voter referendums.

Macer, 48, has a diverse résumé that includes experience in many areas relevant to governing, such as public safety, commerce, economic development, energy, education and health care.

But, she said, her career trajectory hasn't been part of a strategy to prepare her for statewide office.

“I never had ever gone to a political event before running for office,” she said. “Just eight short years ago, I wasn't in politics.”

Instead, Macer said, she has been a community activist and involved in things she cares about.

“I think maybe there's a better way,” she said about leadership. “I'm a no-bullshit kind of lady. I like to get things done. It's really solving problems and making lives better.”

As a member of the minority party in Indiana's Statehouse, Macer has worked to build coalitions with fellow representatives.

“I know how important it is to be a good listener,” she said.

Overall, Macer said, being in the state legislature has been a wonderful experience. But that's not to say that every single experience has been wonderful.

“It is really difficult, though, sometimes,” she said, adding that some policy proposals she's considered great haven't gotten hearings because Republicans in charge don't support them.

Among the bills Macer wrote in the 2019 session were ones that called for an increase in the minimum wage to $12 an hour beginning in 2023 and a tax exemption for military retirement benefits.

She co-wrote a bill that would allow public schools to use state secured school fund grants to hire social workers, mental health counselors and addiction counselors.

Among her priorities are allocating more money for infrastructure upgrades – including roads, bridges and broadband – and the Indiana Department of Child Services.

“I don't feel we're doing a very good job serving children in our state,” she said.

It remains to be seen whether she'll be able to promote those priorities. Gov. Eric Holcomb had already raised more than $4 million toward a re-election campaign as of Dec. 31, according to a disclosure filing.

Macer declined to reveal how much is in her war chest before she's required. As a state representative, she has legally been able to accept donations toward a future political campaign.

Macer not only represents a predominantly Republican area, but she's also the first woman the district has elected and the first Democrat elected to represent the district in decades. That shows, she said, that she's electable in a so-called red state.

“It's really just about doing the work and lifting people up,” she said. “I realize there's a very big challenge ahead, but I'm up for a challenge.”

Not that she's running for governor. Wink. Wink.

sslater@jg.net