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Sunday, April 11, 2021

New Democratic Party chair and vice chair have big goals

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Mike Schmuhl and Myla Eldridge were named chair and vice chair, respectively, of the Indiana Democratic Party during the party’s reorganization meeting March 20. The pair has a long history of federal and local government expertise — Schmuhl worked for Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s mayoral and presidential campaign; Eldridge served as the Marion County Clerk for two terms — a combination Schmuhl said will benefit them going forward.

“I think that we’re a good team,” Schmuhl said. “Myla has such great experience in Marion County at the local level, and her work she’s done on voting rights and … access to the ballot, her experience coupled with mine I think makes for a really good team. We’re ready to get started.”

Building the party throughout the state and increasing voting access are among their biggest goals for their four-year term. Schmuhl said many Democratic voters throughout the state feel a disconnect between the work they’re doing and the state party, an issue they’re hoping to change through outreach.

“We want to ensure we are organizing grassroots and building up infrastructure there year round, and … making sure we’re not just in the communities during election season, but we’re there regularly,” Schmuhl said.

Both recognize, however, gaining political power in a Republican-dominated state will be no easy feat. Beyond standard partisan issues that often create gridlock, political tension in the Indiana Legislature made headlines recently after several Black leaders were verbally attacked during debate on the House floor.

Eldridge, who became the first African American Marion County Clerk in 2014, said while diversity in politics is increasing, leaders must remain vigilant about discrimination.

“I think because of all the rhetoric prior to this year … and all the misinformation that has been put out, we can never give up,” Eldridge said. “Being an African American woman, I think it’s very important and critical that we always address any type of discrimination, anyone who is treated unfairly, it’s our job to stand up and expose it.”

To combat misinformation, the duo wants to create a “megaphone” for their party to share information they think is critical for voters to know, which Schmuhl said is often diluted by Facebook and the internet.

“We want to communicate with all 92 counties,” Schmuhl said. “… People aren’t getting facts anymore to make good decisions, and so one of the things we’re looking at doing is creating a strategy that pushes back against misinformation and conspiracy theories so we can really be front and center in Hoosiers’ minds and … keeping them better informed.”

Neither leader thinks Indiana will become a blue state overnight, but both say investing in young leaders throughout the state and making sure that all Hoosiers have the right to vote will help the party grow. And with that growth, Schmuhl said, will bring greater access to health care, education and workplace protections.

Throughout their first year as chair and vice chair, Schmuhl and Eldridge said the goal is to work together to make the state Democratic Party stronger than ever before.

“I’m just ready to roll up my sleeves and start the work,” Eldridge said.

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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