Bloomington city council 2023 election notebook: Seeds get planted in Democratic Party primary field

Wednesday, Jan. 4 next year is the first chance for Bloomington residents to submit a formal filing of their candidacy for a seat on the nine-member city council.

The image links to a dynamic version of the new Bloomington city council district map, which allows zooming in and out.

But it’s already possible for someone to file the paperwork to establish a campaign committee or just to say that they are running.

Falling into one of those categories, are at least five candidates whose formal paperwork can be expected to show up on the Monroe County’s website sometime starting Jan. 4.

They include: incumbents Isabel Piedmont-Smith (District 1) and Dave Rollo (District 4); and potential new faces on the council, Conner Wright (District 3), Shruti Rana (District 5), and Jonas Schrodt (at large).

All nine city council seats are up for election in 2023—six representing a geographic district and three representing residents citywide. City council members serve four-year terms.

The council is currently composed of all Democrats, and the candidates described in this article will be running in the Democratic Party’s primary.

Andrew Guenther, who had previously announced an at-large city council candidacy, unaffiliated with any party, has since withdrawn that bid.

Piedmont-Smith is the only council incumbent who lives in the newly drawn District 1, on the southwest side of the city. She announced on Monday (Dec. 19) this week that she will be seeking re-election to the council, representing District 1.  If elected to that seat, in 2024 she would start her third consecutive term and fourth overall.

Dave Rollo is one of two incumbents who live in the new District 4, which covers the central south part of the city. The other is Steve Volan.

Rollo is the longest serving member of the council starting in 2003, when he was caucused into the vacancy left by Jeffrey Willsey. Rollo has told The B Square he intends to seek re-election to a sixth full term, representing District 4.

District 3, which covers the northeast side of town, looks like it will have at least one candidate on the Democratic Party’s primary ballot—Conner Wright. He’s an Indiana University student, who has filed the paperwork to establish a campaign committee.

Wright gets a mention in a recent Indiana Daily Student article as an example of a student who has been pushed to get involved in city politics by non-consensual towing. That’s a topic that kicked off the current edition of the council’s work for the 2020 start of the current term.

The new District 3 has one incumbent, Ron Smith.

Announcing on Thursday that she will be a candidate for the new, incumbent-free District 5, on the southeastern periphery of the city, was Shruti Rana.  Rana is a professor specializing in human rights law, and assistant dean at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. She is likely more familiar to B Square readers as a member of Monroe County’s election board.

Under state law,  Rana won’t be able to serve on the election board after she’s a formally declared candidate for the city council. Responding to a B Square question on Thursday, deputy county clerk Tressia Martin said Rana’s resignation had already been received by the clerk.

Under state law, It’s up to the Monroe County Democratic Party chair, David Henry, to pick a replacement for Rana. The election board’s next meeting is set for Jan. 5, 2023.

On Monday (Dec. 19) this week, Jonas Schrodt filed the paperwork to establish a campaign committee to seek election to an at-large city council seat.  Schrodt is among other things an entertainer, operating under the LLC, Jonas Schrodt Enterprises. His Facebook profile also lists work experience at the Brown County Winery, which is owned by his parents, and Monroe County Martial Arts. [Added Jan. 2, 2023 at 4:05 p.m. Schrodt has issued a news release announcing his at-large candidacy for city council. ]

B Square readers might also be familiar with Schrodt from coverage of the 2019 Bloomington Comedy Festival.  It’s an annual summer-long competition where comics compete for election by audience members to the next round of competition. Audience members have to fill out their ballots by selecting exactly six candidates—a ballot marked with fewer than six is thrown out.

That’s different from the rules for elections to the at-large seats on the city council. Voters can pick up to three at-large city council candidates, but can vote for just one or two.

Two incumbent at-large city councilmembers won’t be running for re-election to the council. Susan Sandberg won’t seek re-election to an at-large seat, because she is running for the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor, in a field that includes Kerry Thomson and Don Griffin.

At-large city councilmember Jim Sims said in late November that he will not be seeking re-election.

The third incumbent at-large city councilmember is Matt Flaherty.