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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Marion County Democrats do away with slating

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Marion County Democrats will no longer use a controversial candidate endorsement process that many have criticized as a method to perpetuate favoritism and insider trading.

Marion County Democratic Party Chair Myla Eldridge announced the change to the pre-primary endorsement process, called slating, in a press release Jan. 1. The move to an open primary is effective immediately.

Under the old system, precinct and vice-precinct people voted on candidates the party would officially endorse ahead of the primary election. Endorsed candidates would receive resources from the party, including funding.

Now, candidates can file to run as Democrats and no one will enjoy the boost of a party endorsement.

“As Democrats, we can look forward to an exciting future, with more candidates, more competitive primaries and more engagement across the community,” Eldridge said in a statement. “And, that will lead to even more Democrats being elected to office throughout the county.”

The debate over slating peaked in 2022, when some Black elected officials called for then-party chair Kate Sweeney Bell to resign and unsuccessfully lobbied the Democratic National Convention to get involved. Sweeney Bell did resign, and Eldridge was elected party chair in September.

Some candidates protested by not participating in slating.

Mayor Joe Hogsett also got involved, saying in a statement through his campaign that slating no longer served its purpose. Hogsett is a candidate for mayor again this year.

“While there were historic reasons for its existence, it has become clear in recent years that the decades-old convention endorsement process no longer serves a purpose,” Hogsett said in reaction to the announcement. “I remain confident that this change will strengthen the Democratic Party in this and future years.”

Another Democratic mayoral candidate, state Rep. Robin Shackleford, was among the Black elected officials who criticized slating.

“We state we are a party of diversity, equality and inclusion, but we currently practice something totally different,” she said during a press conference outside of the Statehouse in February 2022.

Contact senior staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853 or email tylerf@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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