Republican candidate Eric Doden discusses the Indiana governor campaign

It is Eric Doden’s first time running for state office. But it’s not the first time he’s traversed all of Indiana’s 92 counties to meet with Hoosiers.

In 2013, then-Governor Mike Pence appointed Doden President of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to spearhead the Regional Cities Initiative. The program pumped millions into local communities and built regional partnerships to attract businesses and workers. The position sent Doden across Indiana to evaluate economic proposals, and the RCI now serves as a blueprint for one of Doden’s campaign platforms.

“We cannot be a place where just one or two or three or four of our communities thrive. We need to be a place where all 92 counties thrive,” Doden said.

Doden was the first candidate to put his name in the 2024 Indiana gubernatorial race. His current opposition consists of Lt. gov. Suzanne Crouch and US Senator Mike Braun.

In a one-on-one interview with ABC57 News, Doden said the top priority for Indiana should be attracting and retaining a talented workforce.

“We know the statistics that half of our counties are losing real population,” Doden said. “And that makes it difficult to grow your economy when that happens.”

Doden’s campaign calls for “Regional Cities 2.0”; a rebirth of the RCI, which would allocate $200 million annually to build regional partnerships among Hoosier communities. His Indiana Main Street Initiative would allocate $100 million a year to help rebuild downtown areas in rural communities.

“We have many older factories that have fallen into disrepair. The factories have moved on. We have various things that need to be fixed and corrected,” Doden said.

The Fort Wayne businessman also wants public school teachers to be exempt from state income taxes, waive adoption costs and make changes to improve transparency in healthcare.

“We’ve been a place that has jobs and we want to continue to have a jobs strategy, but we also need to be a place to attract and retain our talent. Especially our children and grandchildren,” said Doden.

Following Gov. Eric Holcomb’s State of the State address, Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Mike Schmuhl released a statement blaming Indiana’s Republican leadership for much of the challenges facing shrinking communities.

“Our state faces poor quality of life ratings, a worsening brain drain crisis, an inadequate education system, and dismal maternal death rates and pollution levels — and it all falls on the shoulders of Republicans,” Schmuhl wrote in part.

Doden says he feels “called” to serve.

gov. Holcomb’s term of office is limited by re-running. ABC57 is reaching out to all Indiana gubernatorial candidates for one-on-one interviews.