This is the first gay man to run for governor in the home state of Mike Pence

An openly gay businessmen is seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for governor in Indiana, the home state of notoriously ‘anti-gay’ vice president Mike Pence.

Josh Owens, 34, is CEO of an Indianapolis-based tech firm. He is campaigning on issues including raising teacher pay, decriminalising marijuana, tackling climate change and protecting LGBT+ people from housing and workplace discrimination.

If elected he would become the first openly gay major party candidate in the state’s history – which would probably be a real kick in the teeth for Pence, who has long opposed LGBT+ rights.

Owens’ main campaign issue will be education. He said in a statement: “I’m running for governor now because I believe in an Indiana where teachers are paid what they deserve and where all are welcomed, respected and protected.

“We need a leader who will ensure our state budget, policies and laws reflect a bold and inclusive vision for collective Hoosier success.

“Today, many Indiana teachers have to work second jobs and even then, they spend their own money on classroom supplies. As a businessman, I know every Hoosier in the workplace matters, and leadership is required to solve this problem and finally pay them fairly.”

Owens faces an uphill battle in the heavily conservative state, which hasn’t had a Democratic governor in 14 years. Indiana is one of 29 US states which legalises discrimination against LGBT+ people on the basis of their sexuality.

Owens says education will be his main campaigning platform (YouTube/Josh Owens)

The incumbent is Republican Eric Holcomb, a friend and former running mate of Mike Pence who has been criticised for his “tone deaf” position on LGBT+ rights. Prior to Holcomb the position of governor was held by Pence himself.

If he can beat the odds to oust Holcomb, Owens would be only the third openly LGBT+ person to be elected as governor of a US state, the other two being Oregon’s Kate Brown and Colorado’s Jared Polis.