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Indiana governor's race widens, as Democrat Eddie Melton jumps in

State Sen. Eddie Melton is making it official — he's running for governor. 

Melton, who formed an exploratory committee earlier this year,  made the formal announcement Tuesday evening during a gathering in his hometown of Gary. He joins a crowded field vying for the Democratic nomination in May 2020 to face Gov. Eric Holcomb that November. 

Melton said he would speak truth to power and fight for Hoosiers no matter what they look like, who they worship or who they love. He said he wants to raise the minimum wage and teacher pay, invest in education, and ensure all Hoosier have access to affordable, quality health care.

“I have heard directly from Hoosiers across Indiana about how they feel left behind by our state government,” Melton said. “I feel a sense of responsibility to be a voice for those who have felt voiceless and to lead Indiana into a future which creates opportunity for all. I will take the thoughts and dreams shared with me over the years and over the past few months across the state, as I offer myself in service as Indiana’s next governor.”

Melton has formed one of the increasingly curious professional relationships in Indiana politics. Superintendent of Public Education Jennifer McCormick, a Republican, introduced him Tuesday, saying he exemplifies bipartisan cooperation. 

She said Melton often came to her office to learn about issues. 

"I will tell you as a mom, as an educator, as a state superintendent and as a citizen of Indiana, I should expect nothing less," she said. "We deserve nothing less." 

McCormick drew headlines, and the ire of GOP officials, when she went on a listening tour throughout the state with Melton this summer. Republican leaders accused her of auditioning for a spot as Melton's running mate. 

She made a veiled reference Tuesday to the push back she's received, saying some people want to talk about being loyal to party. Melton, she said, wants to be loyal to the citizens of Indiana. 

Melton's campaign declined to say Tuesday whether McCormick would join him on the ticket. McCormick's stint as state schools' chief ends after 2020, at which point the position will be appointed by the governor, rather than elected by the people. 

Two other Democrats also have entered the Indiana governor's race. 

They are Woody Myers, a millionaire venture capitalist and former Indiana health commissioner who once made a name for himself defending AIDS victim Ryan White; and Josh Owens, the CEO of SupplyKick, a company that develops digital strategies for retailers.

“Senator Eddie Melton joins a diverse and talented field for our party’s nomination and I’m excited about the competition of ideas that will occur as the process plays out," Indiana Democratic Party chairman John Zody said in a prepared statement. "Our Party continues to fight for working families and to raise educators’ pay. With health care costs spiraling out of control and the cost of living on the rise, do-nothing governor Eric Holcomb spent three years with his hands in his pockets."

Holcomb officially declared his bid for a second term July 13. Clearly the front-runner in GOP-dominated Indiana, Holcomb already has more than $6 million in the bank available to spend in the 2020 gubernatorial race. 

Finance reports are not yet available for Myers, Melton and Owens. 

Holcomb's campaign said his support is at an all-time high. 

“Through Eddie Melton’s listening tour, he likely heard a great deal about the results Gov. Holcomb is delivering throughout the state," said campaign manager Kyle Hupfer in a prepared statement. "That includes in Melton’s backyard of Northwest Indiana, where Gov. Holcomb’s support for extending and double-tracking the South Shore Line, the creation of a new data center in Hammond, coordinating federal, state and local efforts to address the East Chicago lead crisis, and historic infrastructure investments have helped spur the region to strong growth."

Call IndyStar reporter Chris Sikich at (317) @nikeairmax2017elado.info036. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisSikich.