Monday, March 4, 2013

Miller Takes Reins as Party Chair

Marion County Democratic Party Chairman
Joel Miller
(Photo from Facebook)
It's always hard to follow a legend, and, love him or hate him, Ed Treacy's record in two stints as the Marion County Democratic Party is pretty legendary.

Today, the Joel Miller era of Marion County politics officially begins, and he has to chart his own course in the seas and trials ahead.

As Miller enters office, the Marion County Democratic Party looks to be in really good shape on the surface.  Democrats hold all major executive offices in Marion County (minus the Mayor's Office) and a majority on the City-County Council.  Dems hold majorities on six township boards and five of the nine township trustees offices.  André Carson is very secure in the 7th Congressional District, and Marion County is turning out straight-ticket D results like a well-oiled union assembly line. Still, Miller's job is not going to be easy.

The Marion County Democratic Party is in good shape, and it's so hard to go from good to great.  It's also hard to define just what is great shape when it comes to politics.  The results at the ballot box could say one thing, but, behind the scenes, there could be trouble.  Miller has to be weary of things in that second regard as he takes office.

Former Chairman Ed Treacy
Last time around when Treacy was replaced, Democrats were given Mike O'Connor, and the results in the 2007 election were so bad that they set the party's momentum back a few years.  Much of that was out of O'Connor's control, but his name was on the door at the time.  When he resigned, Treacy came back, and the momentum began moving again in the right direction for Marion County Democrats and it continues today.

Miller is going to have to keep that momentum going by defending what the Democrats have earned at the ballot box and trying to claim those last few offices that just have not gone the D's way.  Of course, the big one is coming in 2015.  That's the next battle for Mayor of Indianapolis.  Who knows what the Council will look like then, as well.  The Republican shenanigans at the Statehouse may eliminate the four At-Large City-County Council seats making the district races that much more critical.  Remember, Democrats would hold the advantage at the district level had a few votes gone differently in the Kostas Poulakidas-Christine Scales race.  Scales held on by less than 40 votes out of over 9,700 cast. There will be new districts though, and that battle continues, too.

There is also the question of what will the Marion County Democratic Party do about the so-called "Southern Tier" of townships.  Decatur, Perry, and Franklin all now have Congressman Carson as their representative in Congress, but they remain largely Republican strongholds.  What will Miller's strategy be, and will it look any different than Treacy's?

I also believe that Miller would be wise to reach out to some folks that have been alienated over the last few years under Treacy.  There are some tremendously talented individuals out there that could help the cause.

The last thing he needs is me telling him how to do his job.  Due to his past work as the party's former Executive Director (and then-Treacy's right hand man), Miller knows the political terrain in Marion County.  He had a front row seat at that time for the gains D's saw the first time Treacy was Chairman.

Miller's also paid his dues, so to speak.  He's been way behind the scenes as a numbers cruncher and policy wonk.  He's managed local and statewide campaigns.  Miller's a workhorse, and he's earned this opportunity.  He's smart, bright, and extremely capable.  He also, with apologies to former Chairman Treacy, brings a more youthful outlook to the job.  The party has taken steps to modernize over the last few years, but it still has a ways to go.

So, he's got a big job, but he's the man to do it.  Joel Miller will be a success as Marion County Democratic Party Chairman, and I think he'll do it by honoring the past while charting his own course as the leader of the Marion County Democrats.

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