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Indiana Democrats Prepare To Elect New State Party Chair March 20

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The Indiana Democratic Party will choose a new state chair on March 20, as current head John Zody steps down after eight years at the helm.

But what, exactly, is the state chair of a political party responsible for?

University of Indianapolis political scientist Laura Wilson said state party chair is a difficult but vital position. Most people experience their influence primarily through elections: state party chairs help identify and recruit candidates. And Wilson said they also direct money.

“You only have so many resources, so where that money goes – even in terms of where the talent, where you’re encouraging people to hire … they’re influential in the organization of campaigns themselves,” Wilson said.

Wilson said becoming the new chair of Indiana Democrats will bring both great pressure and opportunity for a party that is struggling to maintain relevance statewide.

“They need to be able to provide a new focus," Wilson said. "A lot of the messaging that the Democratic candidates have had recently hasn’t been resonating with Hoosier voters … probably also mobilizing people and motivating them.”

There are two candidates remaining for state Democratic Party chair – Mike Schmuhl and Tom Wallace. 

Trish Whitcomb withdrew from the race Monday following a tragedy in her family. Whitcomb announced that her son died unexpectedly Sunday. In a statement, the one-time campaign manager for former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said she couldn’t continue her candidacy following the “unimaginable loss.”

This story has been updated regarding Trish Whitcomb's withdrawal from the race.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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