LAPORTE — Smell what I’m smelling?  
    
No, it’s not “napalm in the morning” or the smell of victory just yet.  What Hoosier Democrats are smelling these days is the real, live chance that we are going to be highly competitive next year with the state ticket that is shaping up.
    
With Glenda Ritz’s decision this past week to seek re-election and to support John Gregg’s nomination for governor, followed quickly on the heels by Sen. Tallian’s decision to do the same, we’ve just averted a messy, intramural fight.  Every dollar raised can now go to electing John Gregg as the next Governor and adding to our numbers in the Indiana House and State Senate.
        
Glenda’s done an outstanding job as State Superintendent and has built a network of educators around the state who are passionate in their resolve to see her re-elected.  Likewise, Sen. Tallian provides a much needed voice of reason and progressive principles in the State Senate and it’s only fitting that she serves much of the territory in LaPorte County once represented by the “conscience” of the State Senate, the late Anita Bowser who was an accomplished constitutional scholar.
    
No, what we have witnessed in the past few weeks are party and labor leaders from around the state concluding that John Gregg gives us the best shot at re-taking the governor’s office and coalescing in pretty rapid fashion.
    
Part of what our party is noticing is a different, more focused campaigner in John Gregg this time around.  Aside from his diligence at fundraising, which he proved this last quarter where he actually out-raised incumbent Mike Pence, he’s done a much better job this time of touching all the right bases from Democratic mayors to party officials to members of the legislature.  Best of all, he’s getting and following advice from longtime Hoosier political professionals.   
    
Let’s be honest – we all chafed at the outsiders John brought in last time to run his campaign, particularly D.C. media guys and others from “out there.” Those hokum TV spots were the ‘brain child’ of East Coast types who have a vision of all Hoosiers as a bunch of ignorant hicks.   
    
Fortunately, John Gregg knows better.
    
He was an unusually adept Speaker who wisely took counsel from folks who understood Indiana politics and governing.  He’s now shown as he develops a campaign team not only a discipline and commitment to this campaign, but a desire to run a truly Indiana-based campaign that recognizes the diversity and different interests that make up Indiana.
    
Then to add icing to the cake, word has surfaced recently that we have a respected jurist willing to seek the attorney general nomination.  Highly respected retired Lake County Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Arredondo will likely seek the Democratic nomination for Indiana Attorney General.  Rather than our State party chair having to encourage a “sacrificial lamb” to throw his or her name on the ballot days before a state convention just so we could fill out a slate, we have the longest serving Hispanic state trial court judge to serve anywhere in the country looking to run.
    
Arredondo was one of the founders of the nationwide Hispanic Bar association and a professor at the national Judicial College.  So respected is former Judge Arredondo that the justice center in Lake County was named in his honor.  Having Judge Arredondo run for attorney general  means having a marquee, top flight candidate for our party.
    
No - we’re not doing an end-zone dance just yet about how this ticket is shaping up. But I have rarely seen Hoosier Democrats more excited about our prospects than I have in the past couple weeks.

Shaw Friedman is former legal counsel for the Indiana Democratic Party and a longtime HPI columnist.