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Indiana’s lieutenant governor says LGBT rights aren’t important

Indiana’s lieutenant governor says LGBT rights aren’t important
FILE-This March 26, 2015 file photo shows Eric Holcomb as announces that he will run for the U.S. Senate in Indianapolis. Holcomb dropped out of the race to serve as Governor Mike Pence's second-in-command and is now running for Governor himself.Photo: (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, FILE)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg derided Republican candidate Eric Holcomb on Monday for being slow to offer plans for what he would do if elected to the state’s top office.

Holcomb’s campaign announced afterward that he would discuss an economic development proposal on Tuesday — his first policy announcement coming seven weeks before Election Day and eight weeks after he was picked to replace Gov. Mike Pence as the Republican nominee.

Holcomb, meanwhile, said in weekend interviews that the state has “gotten through” the religious-objections law signed last year by Pence, which sparked national uproar as opponents maintained it would’ve sanctioned discrimination against gays before GOP legislators approved revisions.

Gregg toured an Indianapolis high school’s career center Monday with Democratic state school Superintendent Glenda Ritz to highlight their proposals for improving vocational training programs around the state.

Gregg said afterward that Holcomb has offered only rhetoric on issues such as education and economic development since Republican leaders selected him as their candidate after Pence ended his re-election bid to become Donald Trump’s running mate.

Gregg, a former Indiana House speaker, pointed to lengthy proposals he has released on his campaign website and discussed while touring the state. Gregg said Holcomb can’t point to accomplishments in government because much of his career has been as a political operative, including as a campaign manager for former Gov. Mitch Daniels and state Republican chairman before being appointed lieutenant governor in March.

“He’s got no program,” Gregg said. “He has no program. There’s nothing out there. That’s because, what’s he going to do, say he knows how to run a good campaign?”

Holcomb has said he wants to continue what he calls the state’s progress under the past 12 years of Republican governors, touting Indiana’s improving unemployment rate, large budget surpluses and funding increases for schools.

“On the campaign trail, Eric has consistently focused on the four areas he believes are necessary to continue Indiana’s forward momentum: economic development, community development, excellence in education and providing good state government at a great taxpayer value,” Holcomb campaign manager Mike O’Brien said in a statement about Tuesday’s announcement. “This plan, and the ones to follow, have been developed after discussions with Hoosiers across the state.”

Gregg has persistently criticized Holcomb and Pence over handling of the religious-objections law and called for the extension of full civil rights protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Holcomb told WXIN-TV of Indianapolis that the LGBT rights question “is not an issue I’m focused on at all.”

“It is 2016 right now. It’s not 2015,” he said in an interview broadcast Sunday. “We’ve gotten through that. We’ve moved forward as a state.”

Holcomb said few people bring up the issue when he’s traveling around the state.

“In Indiana we’re going to protect religious liberties and freedoms in the state constitution, and municipalities can pass local ordinances (extending LGBT protections),” he told The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. “That’s how we’ve been operating. It seems to be working.”

Gregg spokesman Jeff Harris said the civil rights issue remains the top worry of Indiana businesses and that the religious objection-law aftermath continues to scare away investment in the state.

“Clearly, Eric Holcomb has his head in the sand to think that the LGBT issue has passed,” Harris said.

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