INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Democrats heading to Fort Wayne for their state
convention this weekend are already considering who among them is best
placed to lead the party back to the political prosperity they enjoyed under
former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh.
Democrats have not won a statewide office in Indiana since Bayh was elected
to his last Senate term in 2004. The 2010 election was particularly galling,
as the party lost Bayh’s seat, three congressional seats and control of the
state House of Representatives.
The Democrats are hoping not to cede more ground to the Republicans in
November. They hope to win back the governor’s office and the other U.S.
Senate seat, seats currently held by outgoing Republicans, and are battling
for several key U.S. House seats. Statehouse leaders are also looking to
recoup seats in the Indiana House where Republicans outnumber them 60-40.
Amid all the electoral battles, Indiana Democrats are struggling to find
someone to lead their own party.
Party Chairman Dan Parker hoped to leave his post last December but was
forced to stay on because his chosen successor couldn’t get enough support
among top Democrats. The intraparty battle revealed a split between the
party apparatus that had grown up around Bayh’s tenure and an urban faction
led in part by Lake County Chairman Tom McDermott and Marion County Chairman
“Notwithstanding the division about who our state chairman is, I think the
party is coming together to support John Gregg and Vi Simpson,” said Kip Tew,
a former state Democratic Party chairman from Indianapolis. “Despite the
fact that Dan Parker is a bit of an embarrassment, the rest of us have
decided that we all need to be together.”
It’s clear that the party is moving on from Bayh’s control, but a new leader
will not be clear until after the November’s elections, Parker said
Thursday. He says the party’s success will show in November, but they have
already been successful in recruiting a strong group of candidates to run
“Without the leadership provided by a whole host of us we would not have had
a statewide ticket put together,” Parker said. He declined to respond
directly to Tew’s remarks, only saying generally of his critics that “it’s
easy to criticize from the cheap seats.”
Parker emphasized the party’s success in clearing the Senate and governor’s
race of Democratic challengers, giving Gregg and Donnelly better footing
heading into November. In particular, the grueling Republican primary battle
between U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and state Treasurer Richard Mourdock has
national Democrats paying more attention to what would otherwise be a safe
seat for Republicans.
Gubernatorial candidate John Gregg’s hand-picked replacement for Parker,
longtime aide Tim Jeffers, failed to win enough support from the state
central committee last year and withdrew from the race at the last minute.
The move prompted Parker to take control of the party meeting and rescind
Jeffers signed on with Gregg’s campaign but left last week, telling campaign
staffers in an email that he wants to spend more time with his five
children. Gregg said Jeffers will still help write policy for the campaign.
Parker said he is staying on until the next party chairman election in March
2013. If Gregg wins the governor’s office, he will likely be given the pick
of the next chairman. If Gregg loses and Democrat Joe Donnelly wins his U.S.
Senate race, Donnelly would most likely get that privilege. And if both
candidates lose, expect a battle among the party leaders for control of the