Dems select Schmuhl as Democratic party chair

KNOX - The votes from the 2nd District Democratic Precinct Committee are in: Mike Schmuhl, 28, has been chosen as the new Democratic Party Chair for the 2nd District.
Schmuhl’s background includes working on successful campaigns such as Pete Buttigieg’s campaign for South Bend mayor as well as Congressman Joe Donnelly’s 2010 reelection campaign.
The committee, which was made up of 20 Democrats representing 10 counties, met Sunday afternoon at the Knox Community Center to elect the new chair. The position opened up when Butch Morgan resigned last month amidst allegations of forged signatures on petitions in St. Joseph County. Morgan held the 2nd district position for two decades.
Kenny Wallace, Democratic chairman for Starke County, was pleased with the caucus’s selection.
“I think Mike’ll do a great job, and he’ll work with all ten counties in the district. One won’t be treated any differently than another; he’ll work for all of us and we got a good leader,” Wallace said.
Three additional candidates vied for the coveted Democratic position at Sunday’s meeting: Terry Bartley, Democratic Chairman for Kosciusko County; Barb Huston, Democratic Vice President of LaPorte County; and Andrew Straw, candidate for the District 2 Congressional seat.
Conducted by Zanzer Anderson of Elkhart, the District Vice Chairperson, the caucus gave the four candidates an opportunity to express why they should be elected.
Schmuhl said during his speech that he would like to create more communication from the district level to the county level, ensuring every chair and vice-chair in the district is up to speed on everything that is happening with the party. He said that this could be achieved by implementing regular general meetings or event newsletters.
“I would like to implement that correspondence that shares information with each of you, from candidate schedules to parades to fish fries to caucus meetings to JJ dinners; I want everyone to be up-to-date on our Democratic Party activities.”
Schmuhl went on to say that he will strengthen the party by working with organizations at every level.
“From the national party in Washington, D.C., to the state party in Indianapolis, to our organizations at the county and township level, I want to make sure that our party has all the resources it needs to be truly successful,” said Schmuhl.
Schmuhl was ultimately elected on the first ballot, defeating Huston and Bartley. Straw withdrew his candidacy at the end of his speech in support of Bartley.
“Terry has talked to me about getting our next district headquarters accessible and said he’s going to do it. He’s got the union help all lined up. I endorse him and withdraw my candidacy,” said Straw.
Schmuhl said he planned to build on his portfolio of campaign successes.
“What I want to do is try to build on my record of success. Both of those races (Buttigieg and Donnelly’s) were very, very difficult. Joe Donnelly was one of three Democrats in the United States to win in a Republican-leaning district and that’s something that we need to build upon here in North Central Indiana,” said Schmuhl.
“Also, with Pete’s race: Pete got in, and a number of people were saying, ‘He’s too young, he should wait his turn,’ but Pete looked at those folks and he said, ‘You know, I’m going to do this because I have the right ideas and the right energy to become the next mayor of South Bend,’ and that’s exactly what he did.”
Candidate Terry Bartley’s speech focused on his pro-labor views which he holds very strongly.
“I’m running for the second district chair because I want to keep our second district strong — as strong as possible,” said Bartley. “And in order to do that, we need to really get in touch with our labor market. This right-to-work bill is going to be devastating if it goes through, and it is very important that we reach out and make sure that everybody knows that, working families whether you belong to a union or not, will know exactly the details of that bill.”
Barb Huston expressed during her speech that the Democratic Party needed to overcome the controversy regarding the resignation of Morgan.
“I believe in choices. Every journey starts with a small step, and in some respects, we are starting over. My vision for the district is simple: to rise above this cloud of suspicion and to come together united, stronger and wiser. The chair and vice chair should travel to each county, get to know the people, seek input and ask, ‘How can we help each other?’” said Huston. “It takes all of us. Not just one person.”
When the votes were tallied, Schmuhl had received 12 of the possible 20 votes.
Leader Editor Cheryl Patrick contributed to this story