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INDIANAPOLISDr. Woody Myers is confident that he can get the 4,500 signatures necessary by next Tuesday, to qualify as a Democrat candidate for governor. He said he is also ready to take on Republica Gov. Eric Holcomb.

“We’re very close. I get updates every day and I’m confident we’ll beat the deadline,” he said in a Thursday interview. 

Myers must collect at least 500 signatures from voters in each one of Indiana’s nine Congressional districts, just as his fellow Democrat challenger Josh Owens must do also. Owens was busy working on signatures Thursday and returned a statement by e-mail saying that he also expects to beat the deadline.

“We’re trying to make sure that we get more than the required number, such that if some of the signatures might get challenged by somebody than we’ve got some extras,” said Myers, the former state health commissioner.

Both men also said they’d be willing to debate Holcomb, should they be chosen as the Democrat candidate.

“Popularity is one thing. The facts sometimes tell a different story,” said Myers. “You can be a nice guy, a nice person, a good human being and still not have the best policies.”

Myers took issue with Holcomb’s policies, which he said have kept Indiana near the bottom in infant mortality, pollution, but most important to him, teacher salaries.

“There are teachers leaving the state. We’re helping the teaching population in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Illinois because teacher are crossing the border,” he said. Myers said he believes the state’s universities are turning out fewer teachers.

“My guess is that a lot of the kids are voting with their feet. In other words, they can read the salary plans for Indiana teachers.”

Myers was critical of Holcomb’s plan to help school districts raise teacher salaries by freeing up money (both this year and last year) by paying down the teacher pension plan. Myers suggested that the general assembly appropriate money from the state’s rainy day fund for teacher pay.

Myers also criticized the state’s progress on jobs, saying distribution jobs are not enough and that the state should do more to make sure people are trained for better-paying technical jobs.

PHOTO: Chris Davis/Emmis