For several years James Wells has supported Democratic Party causes as vice president of Indiana Young Democrats. Now, the 26-year-old is setting his sights on a higher office: vice chair of the Indiana Democratic Party. Wells announced his candidacy Jan. 22.
Wells got his first taste of politics as a high school student in Gary. While working with school officials to get mold removed from the school, Wells realized the power his voice had.
“Politics and government were both a way that I could help my peers get our issues resolved,” Wells said. “… I realized I’m capable and can bring a different way of doing things for the Democratic Party.”
Wells’ desire to help his community and his mantra that “all politics is local” led him to become student body president at Ball State University in 2016 and to his current job as a neighborhood advocate for Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration.
Indiana Young Democrats President Arielle Brady believes Wells is up to the task thanks to his work in the organization.
“Over the last few years, we have seen Indiana Young Democrats step into leadership roles, run for office, manage campaigns and mobilize Hoosiers in ways that have not only helped flip key seats but have led the Democratic Party in a direction of inclusivity,” Brady said. “We need more young people in party leadership utilizing the skills they have to help share and demonstrate what it means to have bold, sustainable and transparent leadership.”
If elected to vice chair of the state Democratic Party, Wells wants to focus on improving Indiana’s infrastructure, beefing up inclusion within his party to expand their base and making sure the Democrats have a clear platform to share with voters.
He believes Democrats have a chance to flip the state Senate, but that will require strategy and speaking directly to the voters.
“Generally, people want the same thing,” Wells said. “They want their streets taken care of, safer communities, decent schools. Those things transcend Democrat or Republican ideology. If we can speak to people where they’re at, that will help leaders and voters.”
If Democrats can get past the roadblocks that come with campaigning in a conservative state, Wells said, there’s no real limit to what the party can achieve in Indiana.
Of course, Wells knows there’s a fight ahead of him. His age sets him apart from many of his potential colleagues — the average age of Democratic elected officials in Indiana is roughly 58, 5.9% of whom are Black. However, Wells is confident he can handle the challenge and said he sees growing support for younger candidates in Indiana’s House and Senate.
“As our state party seeks to rebuild, we should give full consideration to the perspectives and experiences that our emerging leaders have to share with the Party as a whole,” Indiana Sen. Eddie Melton, assistant minority floor leader, said in a statement.
Unlike a typical political campaign, Wells only needs to garner support from a small group. The State Central Committee — made up of Democrats from each county — will elect new party leadership at a reorganization meeting. Currently, Wells is running unopposed, but said he’s not sure if other people will announce their candidacy before the meeting March 20.
Wells said campaigning for a smaller group takes some of the pressure off. Regardless of how it turns out, Wells said he looks forward to expanding the Democratic Party throughout the state.
“Young gets it done,” Wells said. “I think we have some great, incredible talent with our young folks, and it’s time to let them shine and build the future of this party together.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.