Gubernatorial candidate Dr. Woody Myers on running to becoming Indiana’s first Black governor

The former health commissioner wants to bring about change in the Hoosier state

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When Dr. Woody Myers was appointed as Indiana’s first Black health commissioner in 1985, America was facing what would become its deadliest disease at the time: HIV/AIDS.

The 66-year-old Indiana native recognized the demand for progressive healthcare policies that would not only combat the effects of deadly diseases, but that would also change the stigma attached to emerging illnesses.

“I brought the confidence that comes with having seen and cared for people in all varieties of demographic situations, all walks of life, all of whom came to you because they needed help with one thing, and that was AIDS,” Myers explained.

It is this kind of competent leadership that, according to Myers, the state of Indiana is in desperate need of now.

Dr. Myers is running to become Indiana’s first Black governor. In June, he was elected as the state Democratic party’s first Black nominee. While Myers cherishes the opportunity to make history as the state’s first Black executive leader, he is hopeful for the day in which Indiana has fulfilled its duty to support more Black “firsts.”

“I’m very proud of the fact that I have that (historic) distinction and honor. It shows that things do move forward, though they move awful slowly sometimes,” he said.

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For the past few months, Myers has been campaigning for the governor’s office, urging Hoosiers that he is their best choice for effective and empathetic leadership during these perilous times. He is intentional about focusing largely on the positives of his candidacy, and not to vehemently criticize his opponent, Governor Eric Holcomb. He has, however, outlined a COVID-19 recovery plan that differs greatly from how the virus is being handled by the incumbent.

According to Dr. Myers, the state’s current strategy has fallen short of making decisions that are in the best interest of frequently infected and vulnerable communities. 

“Health issues especially have had direct impact on all communities, but particularly the African-American community, where there are disproportionate positive testing rates and there’s disproportionate death,” he explained.  

Jerusalem Demsas, the national press secretary for the Democratic Governor’s Association, told theGrio that no other candidate is “more capable of leading Hoosiers forward” during a public health crisis than Myers.

“Dr. Myers knows that until we handle the COVID-19 pandemic, we can’t get back to providing our kids with the best education or expanding economic opportunity for working families statewide. That’s what makes him the best candidate to take on this crisis,” Demsas stressed.

Dr. Myers’ experience with managing a state-wide health crisis is not to be understated. He became a leading voice in HIV/AIDS research during the ‘80s after fighting to keep Ryan White—a teenager with AIDS—in school when his school district banned him following his diagnosis.

White became a national symbol for the need to de-stigmatize HIV/AIDS (the Ryan White CARE Act meant to help victims of HIV/AIDS was ultimately signed into legislation), and Myers was thrust into the spotlight as a healthcare leader for his support of White. He urges Hoosiers that his advocacy, as governor, for marginalized communities impacted by COVID-19 would be no different. 

“I grew up taking care of patients, learning how to maximize my impact, and I see the six and a half million Hoosiers, as my patients in some respect,” Myers said. “I’ve got to figure out what’s going on with them, how to prevent problems, not just healthcare, but economic and education problems, and to solve the problems that we have.” 

On November 3, Indiana residents will have the opportunity to retain the state’s former Republican party chair, Holcomb, or to usher in a new era of Democratic leadership through a Myers administration. While history traditionally favors incumbents, widespread calls for government accountability and change have made multi-term officials somewhat vulnerable.

According to Myers, as much of a challenge that running to gain the support of both Democrats and Republicans in the Red State might be, the endeavor was not one to hesitate.

“I didn’t want my grandkids or anybody’s grandkids saddled in Indiana with problems that my generation either created or should solve,” he said. “That’s why I decided to roll up my sleeves, get in there, and throw my hat in the ring to figure out a way to get this job done and to give Indiana voters a good choice. And that’s what we’re doing.” 

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