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Myers brings campaign to Wabash

CANDIDATE:Last month, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dr. Woody Myers was the special guest of the Wabash County Democratic Party's monthly meeting. Provided photo

by Rob Burgess , rburgess@wabashplaindealer.com

Last month, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dr. Woody Myers was the special guest of the Wabash County Democratic Party’s monthly meeting.

Before coming to town though, Myers took the time for a phone interview during which he touched on several issues including other candidates in the field, being a Democrat in Indiana, HIV, drugs and abortion.

Increasingly crowded Democratic field

The Democratic field looking to unseat Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb expanded once again Tuesday as State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, made his long-expected candidacy official.

Myers was the first Democrat to announce his intentions in July. He was soon followed by Josh Owens, who became the first openly gay gubernatorial candidate in the state’s history.

Myers has served as Indiana State Health Commissioner, an attending physician at the Wishard Hospital Emergency Room, a teacher and business executive.

Myers made history when appointed first by Republican Gov. Robert Orr and then Democrat Gov. Evan Bayh, as Indiana’s youngest State Health Commissioner.

“During his tenure, Woody helped make Indiana a leader in AIDS education and gained national recognition when he fought to keep Ryan White – a teenage boy with AIDS – in school when his school district banned him from attending classes following his diagnosis,” stated Myers’ campaign. “Over his career, Woody has served as the medical director for Indiana Blue Cross Blue Shield (now Anthem) – Indiana’s largest healthcare company, as chief healthcare officer for Ford Motor Company ... and as the chief medical officer for WellPoint.”

Myers said he is a “proud third-generation Hoosier” who was looking to put experience to use in fixing some of the most pressing issues in the state.

“We’ve got issues in education, with our jobs in the state of Indiana with health and health care and climate and the environment that just don’t get the attention from the current administration or any of the recent administrations that they ought to,” he said.

Myers said that despite being a Democrat, he wasn’t a “party guy.”

“My goal will be to appeal to those who label themselves as independents and Democrats and Republicans,” he said. “I think there are enough Hoosiers out there that are open-minded that are going to listen to what I’ve got to say that are going to make the decision based upon the quality of my answers as opposed to what party I’m affiliated with.”


When Myers first entered the race, Indiana Republican Party officials pointed to the economy as one reason they saw assuring Holcomb easy re-election.

Myers said the economy might be good for some, but certainly not all Hoosiers including teachers.

“I feel very strongly for the folks who are not enjoying the economy at the top of the food chain so to speak there needs to be a different set of decisions to get them involved to give them an opportunity to take care of their families as well,” he said.

Health care

Indiana has been on the forefront of winnowing the numbers of those who are eligible for the Healthy Indiana Plan by instituting the Gateway to Work program, which adds obstacles for Hoosiers who want to apply for health coverage.

Myers said he was in favor of “health care for all” including expanding Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance “so that everyone has an opportunity to participate in what is a really good healthcare system if you can get in it, if you can get past some of the financial barriers.”

“It’s disingenuous what some of our Republican colleagues are doing in putting these barriers into people getting the care that they need,” he said. “If given this job by the voters of this state, my task would be to undo those changes and to bring some clarity, in many respects some sanity and some compassion to the people in the state who don’t have the care that they need.”

HIV and the opioid crisis

The opioid crisis has hit Indiana particularly hard. Along with the drugs themselves, associated diseases passed between injection drug users have exploded in places like Scott County.

“There is a relationship between the opioid crisis and the HIV epidemic for those who are injection drug users. We know that injection drug users have a much higher rate of transmission of the HIV virus and other viruses as well like hepatitis,” said Myers.

Myers said he saw these problems as inter-related to the lack of health care options.

“I believe very strongly you’ve got to make health care services available to those individuals not just physical health, but mental health as well. Many of these folks have various crises in their lives that they’re not adjusting or dealing with them well. So making the mental health services that can help them to make that adjustment I think could be very, very important,” he said.

Myers said science had made major strides in fighting HIV since he first took the job as health commissioner.

“We are now able to say with real clarity that HIV today is a chronic disease as opposed to a lethal disease. And so I think making the drugs that can treat this virus available to all the folks who need them has to be a priority so that folks can get into the workforce and contribute,” he said. “There’s no reason why an HIV positive person today can’t get treatment and keep a job and continue living with his or her family. And that’s what I would want for every HIV positive person in the state in addition to a better prevention effort so that we get fewer folks that are converting from negative to positive.”


Myers said while he was in favor of limited use of cannabis in medical settings, he was against recreational cannabis in the state.

“The use of THC containing products has been found by many researchers and physicians to be helpful under limited circumstances. So I would be in favor of examining the legalization of THC in those circumstances,” he said. “I do not favor recreational marijuana or recreational THC.”

Myers said making cannabis available to those 21 and above would not stop children who want it from getting it some other way.

“The critics will say, ‘Well, of course, you’re not going to make it available to 16-year-olds.’ My response to that is that 16-year-olds of Indiana have been finding ways of getting beer since I was a little kid and I cannot believe that in Indiana 16-year-olds are not going to get access to any product that we limit to 21,” he said. “That’s one of the issues we’re having now with vaping.”


Myers said he was a gun owner and supported Second Amendment rights. However, he said some simple legislative steps could be taken to curb the problem of mass shootings.

“You have to understand for me the issue is certainly one of safety and public health primarily. The laws that we have today are insufficient especially with respect to background checks, which should be universal,” he said. “We are making progress on what they call the red flag laws, but I don’t know if they are as good as they could be in identifying persons who are at risk.”

Myers said he was in support of those who want to purchase firearms taking gun safety classes, as he did with his children. He

“I remember the days when the NRA was primarily about gun safety. I wish they would return to that,” he said. “My daddy passed down his shotgun and his pistol down to me before he died. I hope to do the same for my grandsons. So, it’s not a matter of Democrats being against guns or being against the Second Amendment. That’s just old-fashioned stereotyping that folks have been doing now for decades.”

Myers said he was in favor of banning assault rifles and expended magazines, which he called “weapons of war.”

“Those are the things the legislature and the Congress ought to grapple with, especially because it seems like every week we have yet another shooting where we’re all wringing our hands and offering thoughts and prayers instead of legislation,” he said.

Abortion and Planned Parenthood

Myers said he saw the health benefits organizations like Planned Parenthood offered to women who otherwise would not be able to visit a doctor.

“They offer health care services that are vitally necessary,” he said.

Myers said he wanted to see “abortion rare and the rarer the better” by provided proper education.

“I think the way to do that is to really allow folks to get the education of their kids in more of an opt-out, as opposed to an opt-in process,” he said. “We can’t be afraid of sex and sexual activity. It’s part of being human. I just know that we can do a better job in our schools of making our health classes both more informative and sex-positive and help Indiana kids understand what sex is all about.”

Myers said the legislature had no business making decisions which should be between a woman and her physician.

“Reproductive health is a right,” he said. “I am not a fan of reversing Roe vs. Wade. But, I do believe that it’s our obligation as adults, as parents, to do what we can to help our kids to make those decisions.