Dr. Valerie McCray speaks to a gathering of the Posey County Democratic Party recently. (Photo provided)

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By Mia Frankenfield
July 9, 2024

Even as a kid, Dr. Valerie McCray had big questions about systemic issues happening at the top of the U.S. government.

Why do people have to be given money to access health care? Why are people turned away from getting the services they need? She continued her questioning throughout her childhood into her career as a clinical psychologist.

After 35 years in the psychology field, 25 as a licensed psychologist, and years of seeing the issues firsthand, McCray had the idea to solve the questions she had growing up on her own.

Sixty-five-year-old McCray is running as a Democrat for U.S. Senate this November. She is the first Black woman to be a nominee for the seat in Indiana history.

For years, she felt she was being pulled in every direction—helping clients, writing reports for veterans, attending sessions for hours to help people suffering with PTSD. She felt, especially as a Black psychologist, there was always something left unfinished in her work.

“It was a matter of, do I continue to keep feeling as if I am just not enough to go around, or do I go to Washington, D.C.,” McCray said. “Keep pushing, trying to get to Washington, D.C., to change the gun laws, to change the policies, to try to get health care, to try to get wages and policies that make sense, so that we have less of these issues coming down the line.”

She spent her whole life in Indiana and got her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate from the University of Michigan. McCray believes that having somebody like herself in the nation’s capital that has studied how politics and rules affect people day to day is a must.

“We’re not relating [politics] to what’s happening with people, and I think that’s what the issue is with career politicians,” she said.

McCray beat her opponent, Marc Carmicheal, for the Democratic primary in May with 68% of votes and is now up against Republican Jim Banks, who has raised over $4.6 million for his campaign, while McCray is at $80,000.

Banks served as a member of the Indiana Senate from 2010 to 2016. The last Democrat to be elected into the U.S. Senate from Indiana was Joe Donelly in 2019.

The Hill has McCray’s chance of winning as 3% in the race against Banks, who has a 97% advantage. But Ryan Ely, Valerie’s adult son, says that is not the case at all.

“There’s a big difference in the competitors, media profile and in the size of donors,” he said. “While my mother’s campaign has demolished all expectations, the other guys are sitting congressmen, so there’s always going to be some difficulty with [visibility].”

The significance of McCray’s campaign is not just about the present challenges, but also about historical milestones that remain unachieved.

“Our country is getting close to being nearly 300 years old. For one of the 50 states to have never nominated a Black woman to be a senator. … It feels like we should have gotten past that before,” he said.

Mary Lett, McCray’s accountant and longtime friend, has been one of many close supporters to McCray.

“She’s doing it for all the right reasons, and I have to tip my hat to her for, you know, she’s not on a power trip,” Lett said.

She commended McCray for her work and reasoning behind running for Senate.

“She genuinely wants to serve the people. … She’s never been a politician,” Lett said. “She’s worked with veterans, she’s worked in the prisons, she’s been a small business owner, she’s got a PhD in psychology, so she’s educated, and I don’t know what more people would want in a candidate.”

McCray plans to continue her clinical work while also advocating for policy changes if she wins the Senate election.

“People are going to continually be surprised, but the only people who won’t be surprised are the people who know her best,” Ely said. “We are all completely unsurprised by the success that she’s had, and I think that she’ll just continue to surprise everyone else but us with her success.”

Mia Frankenfield is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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