Former Buttigieg presidential campaign manager Mike Schmuhl is the new chair of the Indiana Democratic Party.
Party members voted Saturday for Schmuhl to lead the organization over Morgan County Democratic Party head Tom Wallace. Another candidate, Trish Whitcomb, dropped out of race days ago after the unexpected death of her son.
Schmuhl will succeed John Zody, who opted against running for a third four-year term.
The 38-year-old venture capitalist takes over a party that has lost heavily at the state level over the last decade – Indiana Republicans hold every statewide elected office and supermajorities in the General Assembly.
Schmuhl said 2021 is a “rebuilding year” for the state party, likening the organization to a sports team that hasn’t seen the playoffs for a while. And he doesn’t believe the state is as lopsided, politically, as it currently seems.
“With fair and sort of balanced, competitive government, you actually get better outcomes," Schmuhl said. "You know, is Indiana a little tilted rightward the last few cycles? Yes. Is it going to stay that way forever? I don’t think so.”
Schmuhl said his goal as state party chair is to make Democrats competitive at every level.
"There are some rural counties and places across our state where the margins are just enormous and they should not be that big," Schmuhl said. "We need to tighten the margins in every county in the state and make it more competitive - and fill our ballots up across the board."
And success, Schmuhl said, fundamentally means winning more elections "up and down the ballot."
“We need to get more Democrats running for office; we need to train them," Schmuhl said. "We need to build up our county party infrastructures, invest in those areas, organize in those communities.”
That will require raising money and Schmuhl said he’ll lean on his track record doing so in former U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly and Pete Buttigieg's campaigns.
Schmuhl said the to-do list for the next few months includes better coordination and collaboration within the party.
"Yes, we'll need to raise money. Yes, we'll need to hire a team," Schmuhl said. "But also, giving all these groups and activists and volunteers and elected officials something to buy into and get excited about."
Joining Schmuhl in leadership as vice chair of the party is his running mate, Marion County Clerk Myla Eldridge.
This post has been updated.