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Friday, December 2, 2022

Eldridge to prioritize voter participation as 1st local Black Democratic Party chair

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Myla Eldridge was elected Marion County Democratic Party chair Sept. 13, making her the first Black person in the role. She said her immediate priorities include voter participation and turnout.

Eldridge fills the open position left by Kate Sweeney Bell, who resigned Aug. 29 as part of a campaign promise as she runs for county clerk.

“I truly believe I was the best candidate to get the results to help Marion County Democrats win the election,” Eldridge said in an interview with the Recorder.

Eldridge’s extensive experience with elections — she worked in the Marion County Clerk’s Office for more than 16 years, including as clerk for the last seven years — is what she said set her apart from the other candidates because she knows what it takes to win an election.

Starting in early February, there were calls for Sweeney Bell to resign by members of the Marion County Black Elected Officials and the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus. They voiced concerns about how the former chair “abused her power,” citing conflicts of interest for seeking an elected position while being the party chair, as well as discrimination against minority candidates.
With the general election in November, many are wondering how

Eldridge will unite the party. Right now, the new chair is prioritizing two things for the election: voter participation and voter turnout.

Eldridge pointed to the Indianapolis City-County Council, where Democrats hold 20 of the 25 seats, as one example of recent success for the party locally, which she hopes to continue under a five-step plan she’s developed.

Some of the aspects included in her five-step plan are getting Democrats elected by “building our bench of candidates,” uniting the party by making Democrats “feel welcome” and increasing transparency within the party. The plan also includes utilizing technology and investing in the party.

“It’s about unity and moving the party forward,” she said. “I want my work to speak for me and for my character.”

Eldridge received about 96% of the votes cast by the 287 committee chairs and vice chairs who attended the party caucus Sept. 13. The other candidates on the ballot were Ashley Houge, Rosemary Turentine and Karla Nowlin.

There has also been criticism about the Marion County Democratic Party’s endorsement process, commonly referred to as slating.

To participate in slating, candidates must donate 10% of the position salary they are running for to the party. From there, the party endorses certain candidates over others. Many have criticized the process as one that favors insiders who are connected within the party.

In May, Mayor Joe Hogsett said slating needs to come to an end, and Eldridge plans to address this in the future.

“We definitely need to have a conversation about slating,” she said. “I want to get feedback from candidates, do the research and have that conversation.”

Contact religion reporter Abriana Herron at 317-924-5243 or by email abrianah@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @Abri_onyai. Herron is a Report for America corps member and writes about the role of Black churches in the community.

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