Few states enacted more legislation in recent years that harmed working families than Indiana. Voters there have a chance to push back against that on Election Day.

John Gregg, former Indiana House Speaker and Democratic nominee for governor.

The IBEW and its allies are working for the election of John Gregg as the state’s governor and for Evan Bayh’s return to the Senate. There’s reason for optimism. A poll conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute released last week showed Gregg with a 12-point lead over Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb; and Bayh, a former Indiana governor and senator, with a 6-point lead over Rep. Todd Young.

But state political director Mike Daugherty is quick to remind that Indiana is a conservative state. Republicans have controlled the governorship for the last 12 years and currently have supermajorities in both the state House and Senate. Barack Obama in 2008 is the only Democratic presidential nominee to win the state since 1964.

In short, it’s not time to relax.

“Anytime we have a little bit of a lead in the polls, it’s good because this is Indiana,” said Daugherty, a member of Gary and Hammond, Ind., Local 697. “I think a lot of the state is turned off by [Republican presidential nominee] Donald Trump’s antics and I think that will help us as well.”

Trump once had a double-digit lead in the state, but led Hillary Clinton just 45-41 percent in the same Monmouth poll.

Indianapolis Local 481 Business Manager Steve Menser notes its members have been active in the state AFL-CIO’s program for volunteers to canvass for worker-friendly candidates every other Saturday until the election on Nov. 8.

Local 481 hosted the Indianapolis-area event on Oct. 8 and volunteers knocked on about 1,100 doors during the day, he said. Statewide, volunteers knocked on about 11,000 doors, according to the state AFL-CIO.

“Those numbers are kind of telling about the energy level we have for this election,” Menser said.

Indiana passed a right-to-work law and it was signed into law by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2012. Mike Pence, who succeeded Daniels and now is the Republican vice presidential nominee , has made it clear he supported the move.

Former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, who is running for his old seat. Bayh also served two terms as Indiana’s governor. Photo provided by Lisa under a Flickr/Creative Commons agreement.

Pence later signed a repeal of the Indiana common wage laws , similar to prevailing wage laws in most states. The laws had been in effect since 1935.

Gregg, a longtime friend of working families, narrowly lost to Pence in 2012. The two were headed for another showdown until Pence accepted Trump’s offer to be his running mate. State laws prohibit a candidate from running for two offices at some time, forcing him to withdraw from the governor’s race.

A Gregg victory wouldn’t reverse right-to-work or the repeal of the common wage laws immediately. The GOP almost assuredly still will have large majorities in the state House and Senate. But Menser said Gregg will appoint more labor-friendly officials to state agencies and also give unions and working families a needed morale boost.

He also noted that Holcomb seldom mentions Pence, who remains unpopular in the state , but has said that he supports many of the governor’s policies.

“As long as John Gregg just stays on message about raising wages for Indiana workers and the outsourcing of jobs and trying to keep those jobs in Indiana, I think he’ll be fine,” Menser said.

Pence was criticized for focusing too much on social issues while Indiana’s wage growth during the last four years has been below the national average.

“Holcomb has been kind of a Pence clone,” Menser said. “Everyone is tired of this social divide and these issues being part of the state legislature. They want to hear about ways to raise the pay of Indiana workers. Gregg has been very consistent in that message.”

In the Senate race, Bayh appears to have withstood millions of dollars in attack ads coordinated by special interests from outside the state. Many centered around the theme he didn’t live in Indiana full-time after leaving the Senate in 2010 and was no longer in touch with the state’s citizens.

But when it comes to supporting working families, Bayh is much like his father, former Indiana senator and progressive icon Birch Bayh. He had a 92 percent score from the AFL-CIO when he served in the Senate from 1999-2011. Young, on the other hand, has a score of just 9 percent during his nearly six years in the House.

“This influence of ads paid for by people from outside Indiana trying to tag [Bayh] as an establishment-type senator and not one in touch with working Hoosiers is not working,” Daugherty said. “With our membership, I think he has pretty strong favorables.”

Added Menser: “Todd Young plays tea party politics. I am trying to impress that on my membership, but honestly, that’s not a tough sell. Our members are going to vote for Evan Bayh.”

Trump is still considered the favorite on the presidential level in Indiana, even though Clinton has closed the gap. Daugherty and Menser say they continue to reach out to voters who support Trump, reminding them there are equally important races down the ballot. Daugherty said IBEW members in his area – which is in northern Indiana near Chicago – are working with the Service Employees International Union to get out the vote.

“It’s just going to be about voter turnout,” Menser said. “Obviously, this state leans a little more red. I think if a lot of Trump supporters come out, there’s a chance for more straight-ticket voting and that scares me a little bit. But if we get our members out, I think we’ll be fine. A lot of organized labor is fired up.”

Homepage photo credit:  Photo courtesy of the Gregg for Indiana campaign.