Dan Parker said Monday morning that he will step down as chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party after a seven-year tenure that included big political highs—including President Barack Obama’s 2008 victory in the state—but recent lows as well.
"It is time for a new leader to embrace our past successes and take up our future challenges,” he said In a letter to party leaders.
“I have worked each day to make our state party more inclusive and diverse, more open, more efificent and more successful at the ballot box,” Parker wrote. “We have achieved many of the goals we set out to achieve.”
The Indiana Democratic Party’s central committee will choose Parker’s successor at a meeting Dec. 17. The party’s presumptive nominee for governor—former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg of Sandborn—is expected to be influential in that decision.
Parker leaves a party that just three years ago was celebrating the election of Obama, who had become the first Democrat to win Indiana’s electoral votes in 40 years.
But in that same election, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels easily won a second term over Democrat Jill Long Thompson. And two years later, Republicans won a big majority in the Indiana House and extended their control of the Indiana Senate to a quorum-proof margin.
That gave Republican lawmakers the power to draw legislative and Congressional district maps that will impact elections for the next 10 years.
Parker has a long list of political credentials. He led the 1996 and 1998 Indiana House Democratic campaigns that resulted in legislative majorities in both years.
He coordinated former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson’s successful ground campaign in 1999 and served as former Sen. Evan Bayh’s state director for three years. He also served as executive director of the Indiana Democratic Party before becoming its chairman in 2004.
At the time, Parker said in his letter, “the future looked bleak, if not impossible.”
“We’d just lost control of the governor’s office for the first time in 16 years and Republicans were determined to make sure we stayed in the wilderness for as long as they had been,” Parker wrote. “We proved them wrong.”
Two years later, Parker oversaw the election of three new Democrats to the U.S. House and helped Democrats keep the majority in the Indiana House. And the following year he committed resources to local races that allowed Democrats to control a record 68 out of 119 mayoral offices across Indiana.
Then in 2008, Obama became the first Democrat to win in Indiana since Lyndon Johnson did so in 1964.
But there were also big losses. Daniels won reelection in 2008 and then Republicans had big wins in 2010 and again this year, when the GOP won a majority of Indiana mayoral offices, typically a Democratic stronghold.
Still, Parker said in his letter he believes the party is well-positioned for success, with a professional staff, modernized business operations, strong voter files and donor lists.