At a caucus held by Zoom video conference on Sunday, the Monroe County Democratic Party chose Shruti Rana as its vice chair.
Rana is assistant dean at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. As a legal scholar, she focuses on international and human rights law.
Her local government service includes the current chairship of the county’s election board and membership on the city of Bloomington’s five-member board of public safety.
The vacancy in the vice chair position for the county party arose when Jennifer Crossley resigned as chair, because she was selected at a caucus in mid-December 2021 as the replacement on the seven-member county council for Eric Spoonmore. Spoonmore resigned from the county council when he took the top job at the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.
At a caucus a couple of weeks ago, the Democrats chose David Henry as county chair to replace Crossley. But Henry had been vice chair, which left a vacancy in that spot.
On Sunday, Rana’s selection as vice chair was uncontested. The caucus was conducted on a Zoom video conference.
In her written candidate statement Rana describes herself as “a longtime progressive advocate and community activist, and also a lawyer who specializes in international law and human rights.” The statement continues, “I have advocated for women’s rights, reproductive justice, and immigrants’ rights locally, nationally, and globally for over two decades.”
In her remarks to the caucus on Sunday before the vote, Rana pointed to her daughter as inspiration.
“I want to start with what motivated me to run for vice chair. First, I think my defining moment here was the birth of my daughter, Eva, in 2017, which really galvanized me to take action,” she said. Rana continued, “And when I had her, I wanted to make sure that she would grow up in a world that was better than the one that I have, or I have lived in.”
Rana added, “Since she was born, we’ve just seen spiraling crises in our state and our nation. We see that democracy is under threat.”
Rana said that previous gains of women in the workplace had been eroded during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Recent figures that show nearly all of the gains that women have made in the workforce since the 2008 financial crisis have been wiped out during the pandemic.” She continued on that topic. “Our child and maternal mortality rates are among the worst in the nation in Indiana and we live in a childcare desert.”
Rana wrapped up that subject by asking, “If we don’t fight for a better future for our children and Monroe County, who will?”
Rana gave three areas she’d like to work on: building a “bench” made up of the next group of party activists; continuing to professionalize party operations; and recruiting strong progressive leaders from across the party’s constituencies.
Before the vote, Rana fielded questions.
Among them was one from Regina Moore, who formerly served as Bloomington’s elected city clerk, and as vice chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party.
Moore prefaced her question with some personal background:
I’m asking this question as a former party vice chair—I think I know the role there. And after also being criticized a lot for some of my husband’s opinions and verbalizations over the years—I see some of you are giggling.
But we heard your husband say… that he vowed to oppose our three commissioners in their next races. … Can you talk a little bit about the dissonance that this might create? And how you’re going to handle this? Do you actually vow to be neutral in primaries and help both candidates or all candidates equally?.
Rana’s husband is David Gamage, a professor of law at Indiana University, who served as a volunteer poll watcher and election monitor for 2018 elections in Monroe County. Moore was referring to remarks made by Gamage during public comment time at the start of the Nov. 10, 2021 county commissioners meeting.
Gamage’s comments came in the context of the friction between the county commissioners and the three-member election board, which Rana chairs, over the allocation of space to the county’s election division.
Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne, also a member of the election board, had advocated for all of the space in the Johnson Hardware building (aka Election Central) to be allocated to the election division. Commissioners had rejected that request, because the other space in the building is currently occupied by the probation department.
About Browne’s plans, Gamage told commissioners in early mid-November last year, “I don’t know for sure that these are the right plans. But I know for sure that the responses by all three commissioners have been hostile, negative, uncooperative, proposing alternatives that are in no way feasible, requesting minor revisions of information in ways that are not productive.”
Gamage continued, “And at this point, I view all three of you as enemies of democracy and enemies of voting. And I’ll say for the record here that I plan to make sure that in all three of your future campaigns, whatever those might be, that this is well known by voters, and I plan personally to support your primary opponents in any future campaigns.”
Gamage has made good on that assurance. A few hours after Sunday’s caucus, Dominic Thompson, who is challenging county commissioner Lee Jones in this year’s Democratic Party primary election, announced Gamage as his campaign treasurer.
At Sunday’s caucus, Rana responded to Moore’s question by saying that she and her husband are separate people. Rana said:
I’m obviously very close to my family and family is a big part of my life. But I’m also a feminist to the core. And what my husband does and what we do, we follow our own passions, opinions and views. We even have our own separate bank accounts, right. … I feel so lucky to live in a world where I can be judged for who I am, he can be judged for who he is. And I firmly support every member of my family, in pursuing their passions, wherever they are.
Rana also pledged to remain neutral, at the same time indicating that the principle of neutrality supports the idea of contested primaries, which are good for the party, she said. Here’s how she put it:
I think when we talk about primaries, it’s so important, when we talk about building our bench to have as many candidates as possible come in, put their hat in the ring, and go forth and talk to the voters and let the voters choose. And so I think party neutrality is really important in encouraging as many people as possible to come into our primaries. That’s how we get the best candidates. That’s how we get engagement. That’s how we get lots of new people and new issues out there. And so of course, it’s not even a question that I support party neutrality.
A bit later during the caucus, Natalia Galvan prefaced a question for Rana with an allusion to Moore’s turn: “First of all, just as the current president of the Monroe County chapter of the National Organization for Women, I will just say, one of the questions earlier was very disappointing.”
The vote on the choice of vice chair was by acclamation, which means no roll call was taken. David Henry, who was presiding over the caucus, asked those who supported Rana’s election as vice chair to indicate that by saying, “Aye.”
A chorus of “Ayes” ensued. Responding to Henry’s “Opposed?” was one “Nay” from what sounded like a male voice.
The next regular re-organization of the county park with officers elections is in March 2025, based on the state party’s set of rules.