Crossley declares bid to fill Monroe County council vacancy, recuses herself from caucus process as Democratic Party chair

In a communication issued by the Monroe Democratic Party late Tuesday afternoon, logistical details were released about a caucus to fill the District 4 vacancy on the county council.

The caucus will be held on Sunday, Dec. 19 at 2 p.m. in the Monroe County Public Library.

The bigger news in Tuesday’s release was party chair Jennifer Crossley’s declaration that she will stand as a caucus candidate to fill the vacancy.

The vacancy in District 4 will be created when incumbent Eric Spoonmore’s resignation becomes effective on Nov. 30.  Spoonmore is resigning to take the job of president and CEO of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.

Under state law, it’s the party to which the resigning councilor belongs that has the responsibility to find a replacement. Normally, the party chair presides over the caucus.

In the event of a tie vote among the 20 precinct chairs of District 4, it’s the party chair who would, under state law, cast the deciding vote at the caucus.

But Crossley will be distancing herself from the administration of the caucus, according to the release. Crossley is quoted in the release saying, “[T]o be transparent and to make sure that our caucus runs smoothly, I am recusing myself on anything related to this caucus.”

Presiding over the caucus, instead of Crossley, will be the Democratic Party’s county vice chair, David G. Henry.

If Crossley is selected as Spoonmore’s replacement, the Monroe County Democratic Party will need to elect a new chair. The release quotes Crossley saying, “Should I win the caucus, I will also resign from my position as the Monroe County Democratic Party Chairwoman immediately after the caucus.”

Crossley is currently in her second term as Democratic Party chair.

In her candidate statement for the party’s leadership, Crossley describes herself as a Gary native, who came to Bloomington to attend Indiana University, where she earned her undergraduate degree in telecommunications. She describes herself as leading and building management teams while working as a general manager for conventional and student housing entities. She’s now a banker.

Reached by the B Square, Crossley said, “I’ve always thought about running for office, and just didn’t know when would be a really good time.”

About the perspective she would bring to the county council, Crossley added, “I’m not the typical person that you might see—I still rent, I have a nine-to-five job.” Crossley’s three children also factor into the perspective she would bring to the job, if she is picked by the caucus to succeed Spoonmore: “I have a young family. My kids are 14, 9, and 7.”

Over the last year and a half, Crossley has been visible as party chair, addressing local crowds during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.

In early 2021, Crossley spoke at a night gathering at Seminary Park in support of the houseless campers who were eventually removed from the premises by the city of Bloomington. On that occasion, she introduced herself as chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party. She added, “But before any titles, I’m a mom, I’m a human being.”

Crossley continued, “What has happened to folks that occupied Seminary Park is wrong,” she said. “We need to be showing them compassion, and decency, to allow them to occupy this space,” Crossley said.”

At least two other candidates were mulling caucus runs for the vacancy that Spoonmore will be leaving.

With Crossley’s Tuesday announcement, both Dominic Thompson and Ilana Stonebraker indicated to The B Square that they will not be contesting the race.

Thompson is a recent graduate of the IU O’Neill School of Public & Environmental Affairs, in law and public policy. He serves on the city of Bloomington’s board of housing quality appeals. Thompson is chair for candidate recruitment and political engagement for the Stonewall Democrats of South Central Indiana.

Stonebraker is head of the Business/SPEA Library at Indiana University. She is a former county councilor from Tippecanoe County, elected in 2018. Stonebraker serves on the steering committee of the Democratic Women’s Caucus.

The 2 p.m. Dec. 19 caucus at the Monroe County Public Library will be open to the public, according to Monday’s release from the Democratic Party.

County vice chair David G. Henry is quoted in the news release saying, “In a perfect world, Indiana would join other states in having recall and referendum voting, not to mention direct elections to fill vacancies.”

The quote from Henry continues, “Since the Republican supermajority has long opposed those reforms, we choose to conduct as open and transparent a process as possible under the rules we have.”

According to Tuesday’s news release, attendees of the caucus will be required to wear face masks and follow to the social distancing guidelines in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

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