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The end of slating? Hogsett calls for Democrats to end controversial practice

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Mayor Joe Hogsett is ready for the Marion County Democratic Party to end its controversial endorsement process, according to a statement shared by his campaign.

Hogsett, who is up for election in 2023, said the county Democratic Party has “enjoyed success welcoming fresh ideas and amplifying the energy of new voices,” but he added the process — known as slating — no longer serves its purpose.

“As a result, I am calling on the Marion County Democratic Party to commit itself to an open primary process in next year’s municipal elections and to strongly consider abandoning the practice altogether moving forward,” Hogsett said. “In so doing, I am confident the Marion County Democratic Party of today will find strength in ensuring that every voter has an equal voice in determining our future.”

Journalist Adam Wren was the first to report Hogsett’s position in his Indiana politics newsletter.

Marion County Democrats’ pre-primary convention has been criticized as an insider game that keeps political newcomers — especially those who are Black or not well-connected — out of politics.

Candidates have to donate 10% of the salary of the position they are running for to the party in order to participate in slating. Though it’s not an official rule, it’s understood that candidates the party doesn’t endorse shouldn’t run in the primary.

The conflict came to a head earlier this year when Black elected officials and clergy called for Marion County Democratic Party Chair Kate Sweeney Bell to resign, saying it was a conflict of interest for her to be party chair and seek elected office. Sweeney Bell, who is currently county recorder, won the Democratic primary for county clerk and will face Republican Andrew Harrison in the general election in November.

As chair, Sweeney Bell has the power to appoint precinct committee persons, or PCs, to empty seats. PCs then vote for who the party endorses before the primary.

Some candidates opted to skip slating and ran successfully without the party’s endorsement this primary cycle.

Sweeney Bell has said she will give up her seat as party chair if she wins the race for clerk.

Meanwhile, city-county councilor Monroe Gray, one of the most outspoken critics of both Sweeney Bell and Hogsett, sent a letter to the Democratic National Committee, asking the national party to get involved.

Gray and others from groups including the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus and Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis have already asked Hogsett, the state party and Rep. Andre Carson to get involved. All have answered to an extent, but the legislators and ministers remain dissatisfied with responses.

The letter, addressed to DNC Chairman Jamie Harrison, asks the DNC to “provide directives to the State and County which will alleviate the conflicts of interest, provide a directive to address the slating/convention process, and also allow for a process to appeal concerns that arise at the local and state level.”

“Gone unaddressed,” Gray writes, “the Party will become further divided which will have a detrimental effect on statewide races as Marion County is critical to Democrats in Indiana winning statewide and picking up legislative seats.”

Gray said the letter was sent through the Postal Service. As of May 10, a DNC spokesperson said the DNC hasn’t received it.

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

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