Political notebook: 19 contested precinct “committeeman” races for Monroe Democrats

Among the recent filings for the 2022 elections were 84 declarations by local Democrats for a position that is called “precinct committeeman” in the Hoosier state’s election law.

A precinct is the smallest geographic political boundary area. Generally, other areas—from congressional districts to city council districts—use precincts as their basic building blocks. There are 82 precincts in Monroe County.

No Republicans filed for the position of precinct committeeman this year.

That’s not a scandal. Republicans elect their committeemen on a different four-year cycle. The selection of Republican committeemen will come in 2024.

This year’s Democratic Party filings for precinct committeeman cover 59 out of the county’s 82 precincts. These positions are known as “precinct chairs” for the Dems.

That translates into several contested races—19 of them, in fact. One of the races for precinct chair includes four candidates.

The deadline for withdrawal from a race passed last Friday at noon, so the ballots should reflect all those contested races, when they’re made available for public inspection by the election division on Feb. 18.

Is the sheer number of 19 contested races for Democratic Party precinct chairs remarkable? If so, what, if anything, explains it?

For one thing precinct chairs for each of the major parties do wield some political power. They’re the people who decide how vacancies are filled if someone resigns from local elected office. That’s because the appointing authority to fill vacancies goes to a caucus of the political party with which the resigning official was affiliated. It’s the precinct chairs who vote in the caucus.

And it’s not all that rare that a vacancy gets filled with a political party caucus. Just last month, the Dems filled a vacancy on the Monroe County council. Jennifer Crossley was chosen by a caucus to fill the vacancy left by Eric Spoonmore.

Currently serving on the county council are at least two other members who were first put on the council through a caucus: Peter Iversen and Trent Deckard. On the Bloomington city council, at least three current members were first put on that nine-member body through a caucus: Dave Rollo, Susan Sandberg, and Jim Sims. On the county board of commissioners, Penny Githens was first put there through a caucus.

If Githens were to prevail in the state house District 62 Democratic Party primary race against Brad Swain, and also win the general election against the Republican Party’s nominee, then she would leave a vacancy on the three-member board of county commissioners. And it would be filled through a caucus.

The Republican nominee for District 62 will come from a three-person primary field: Dave Hall, Myra Kinser, and Greg Knott.

Precinct chairs are also supposed to be a party’s “boots on the ground” for statewide and national races.

The specific responsibilities described on the Monroe County Democratic Party’s website for precinct chairs include, among other things: gathering petition signatures for party candidates; using door-to-door canvassing to distribute party and candidate literature; registering voters and maintaining regular contact with newly registered voters; finding out where independent voters stand on party candidates, holding house parties for party candidates; prompting alternate forms of voting among party supporters; and helping “chase” early absentee ballots to ensure they are returned.

Is 19 a large number of contested races? Compared to 2018, it’s about a 25-percent increase in contested races for precinct chair in the Democratic party. In 2018, races for 15 precinct chairs were contested.

The 2022 election cycle has also seen an increased number of precincts for which someone has filed at all. This year, it’s 59 precincts that have at least one candidate. In 2018, just 45 precincts had at least one candidate file.

The chair of the county party can also appoint someone to serve as a precinct chair.

Democratic Party county chair David Henry responded to a B Square question about the number of filings for precinct chair by writing in part, “Filling these crucial roles happens best at the ballot box.”

About the contested races, Henry wrote, “Democrats aren’t afraid of healthy competition. I know of several Democrats who are good friends who are running against one another. Regardless of who wins, there won’t be hard feelings as the winner will likely appoint their opponent to a vice chair spot for the precinct.”

About the increased interest in precinct chair spots, Henry wrote, “These filings show a trend toward increasing interest from Gen-X, Millennials, and Gen-Z in the political process. Since Liz Watson’s 2018 Congressional campaign and the 2019 municipal election, we have seen local Democrats re-engage—from the new grassroots to long-time party members.”

Henry added, “And with all three Democratic candidates for the Indiana 9th Congressional race hailing from Bloomington, we are likely to see even more energy from new volunteers through to November.”

The three 9th District candidates for the Democratic Party’s nomination are: Isak Asare, D. Liam Dorris, and Matthew Fyfe.

That’s the district where Republican Trey Hollingsworth announced he would not be seeking re-election. On the Republican side, it’s a nine-way race for the nomination: Jim Baker, Stu Barnes-Israel, J. Michael Davisson, Dan Heiwig, Erin Houchin, D. Eric Schansberg, Mike Sodrel, Bill J. Thomas, and Brian Tibbs. [Indiana Secretary of State’s candidate list]

Fyfe can also be found on the ballot as candidate for the precinct chair of Bloomington 22. That race is not contested.

Precincts consist of the name of the township followed by a number, where there’s more than one precinct in a township.

In the table below, compiled by the B Square from candidate filings, “Bloomington Township” is abbreviated with a “B”, “Perry Township” with a “P”.

Table: 2022 Democratic Primary Candidates for Precinct Committeeman

Precinct Name Date filed CANDIDATE NAME
B01 2022-02-02 Nora West
B02 2022-02-01 Forrest Gilmore
B03 2022-02-07 Goldburn Maynard Jr
B04 2022-02-07 Ian Nowlin
2022-02-07 Kathryn Riordan
B05 2022-02-02 Evan Futa
2022-02-07 Conner Wright
B06 2022-02-02 Cory Ray
2022-02-02 Natalia Galvan
2022-02-02 Rachel Guglielmo
2022-02-07 William Baus
B08 2022-02-07 Scott Keegan
B09 2022-02-01 Dorothy Granger
B10 2022-02-07 Eric Sader
2022-02-07 Jill Jolliff
2022-02-07 Tanner Branham
B11 2022-01-05 Julie Thomas
2022-02-07 Claire Cumberland
B12 2022-02-02 Michael Melsheimer
2022-02-07 Jeanne Smith
B13 2022-02-02 Jillian Kinzie
2022-02-07 Jerrett Alexander
B14 2022-02-07 Daniel Bingham
B15 2022-02-07 Aja R Jester
B16 2022-01-26 Jacob Schwartz
B17 2022-02-01 Sue Sgambelluri
2022-02-07 Ilana Stonebraker
B20 2022-01-20 Charlotte Zietlow
2022-02-07 Barbara McKinney
B21 2022-02-07 Mark Stosberg
B22 2022-01-19 Matthew Fyfe
B23 2022-01-27 Chaim Julian
2022-02-01 Alessia Modjarrad
2022-02-01 Karen Annese Granger
2022-02-02 Jackson Stone Murphy
Ben1 2022-01-11 Tressia (Tree) Martin
Ben2 2022-02-02 Eric Schmitz
IndianCreek 2022-02-02 Brad Swain
2022-02-02 Susan Hingle
P01 2022-02-02 Elizabeth Rosenbarger
P02 2022-01-13 Erika Oliphant
P03 2022-02-02 Robert Deppert
2022-02-07 Kaisa Goodman
P04 2022-02-01 Sue Wanzer
2022-02-02 James (Apple) Muncy
P05 2022-01-28 Denise Valkyrie
2022-02-02 Kate Seader
2022-02-07 Adrienne Fernandez
P06 2022-01-19 Ashley Cranor
2022-01-19 Isabel Piedmont-Smith
P07 2022-02-07 Jackson Wanninger
P08 2022-02-02 Sean Gilley
P10 2022-01-21 Jennifer Crossley
P11 2022-01-13 Patricia Williams
2022-02-07 Birgit Newman
P12 2022-02-07 Manuel Diaz-Campos
P13 2022-02-02 Courtney Daily
P14 2022-02-02 Samuel Ujdak
P15 2022-02-01 Regina Moore
2022-02-07 Donald Griffin Jr
P16 2022-01-05 Jack Davis
2022-02-01 Deborah Myerson
P17 2022-02-02 Joleena Mundy
P18 2022-01-10 Iris Fabius Kiesling
P19 2022-01-31 Sarah Bauerle
P21 2022-02-07 Allyson McBride
P22 2022-02-07 April Hennessey
P23 2022-02-07 Donyel Byrd
P24 2022-01-26 Dan Combs
P26 2022-01-14 Edward Robertson
P27 2022-02-07 Melinda Seader
P29 2022-02-07 Sara Bretz
P30 2022-02-01 Stephen Volan
P31 2022-02-02 Ryne R J Shadday
P32 2022-02-02 Sarah Kopper
R01 2022-02-07 Kurtis Cummings
R03 2022-01-25 Pamela Jones Davidson
R04 2022-01-12 Ruben Marte
VB01 2022-01-27 Ashley Pirani
2022-02-07 Sarah Owen
VB02 2022-01-31 Jim Sims
VB03 2022-01-10 William “Will” Smith III
VB04 2022-01-06 Wayne Shepherd
Washington 2022-02-07 Byron Turner II