Opinion and Forefront

BECK: New Democratic chairs will deliver

March 30, 2013

BeckI’m optimistic about the future of Hoosier Democrats, particularly at the state level and in Marion County. Why, you ask?

John Zody and Joel Miller.

Recently, Zody was unanimously elected chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party. Miller took the reins of the Marion County Democratic Party to thunderous acclamation from party workers and leaders. They are smart, savvy and will work tirelessly to get Democrats elected.

(And, to quote former Sen. Birch Bayh, they each “married up,” which is an accomplishment in its own right.)

I’ve had the honor and privilege to have worked with both Zody and Miller. Zody was an essential member of former Gov. Frank O’Bannon’s staff. During the 2004 gubernatorial campaign, he was the first guy in the office in the morning and the last to leave at night. Time and again, I watched him deliver.

Zody also has essential experience at the federal level, where he served former congressman Baron Hill both in the district and as chief of staff. Last cycle, he was part of President Obama’s Midwest political operation. He’s also a nice guy, which frankly can be pretty rare in politics.

Zody follows Dan Parker, who served our party with distinction during his eight-year term. Zody is the right person to present a reasonable and thoughtful dialogue about our party’s commitment to lifting up the middle class. He will offer substantive criticism of how, despite themselves, the Republican super-majorities are out of touch and out of ideas.

Here in Marion County, which is not just the state’s largest county but also necessary for a statewide Democratic win, Miller is a veteran political operative. His campaign experience in state and local races is unparalleled, and other than my husband, he’s the only person I know who can rattle off turnout numbers by precinct from memory.

Miller served under former Marion County Chairman Ed Treacy, whom I greatly admire and respect for his ability to run an election program. Most of us play checkers, but Treacy plays chess. So does Miller.

Miller is from Union City. He is committed to what Democrats stand for, and he will fight for every single vote.

In 2008, I worked for him on a statewide campaign. Our team was small, but we were fighters. Under his leadership, we rarely deviated from our plan. On election night, as we watched our candidate fall short by a mere 38,000 votes, I watched him handle the setback with graciousness and dignity. Frankly, that’s pretty rare in politics.

Miller is an undisputed street fighter, but at the end of the day he’ll reach across the aisle and shake the hand of the opposition and sit down for a drink. He made that point clear during his acceptance speech, and I’m glad he did.

Both Zody and Miller give me great reason to be optimistic about the future of Democratic politics in Indiana. I’m sure my Republican and Libertarian friends would agree that serving as the party chair is a thankless job. It’s kind of like being a mom—everyone wants something from you and no one ever is happy with you.

However, Zody and Miller have set up impressive networks over their fairly short careers. They listen to everyone, work with everyone, and if you need that yard sign, they’ll get in their cars and drive it over to you.

They embody what our party is all about—access and inclusion.•

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Beck served on the staffs of former Mayor Bart Peterson and former first lady Maggie Kernan. A resident of Irvington, Beck owns the strategic communications firm Beck Communications. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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